Log:A Horse Named Troll
|A Horse Named Troll
21 April, 2018
Ardis is interested in Jack's ad of horse watching, and Jack has an interview. They set up an agreement.
========-< << Tamarack Road - Wilderness Preserve >> >-=========
A single public road passes through the Preserve, a pleasant twenty-minute drive (at the speed limit), all things considered, and the only road into or out of the town of Tamarack Falls. A wooden sign at the base of the steep cliff's switchback cautions against falling rocks and, too, contains symbols to indicate that cyclists and equestrians are also welcome on the trail.
Thickly forested and prone to fog in low areas, the dense woods at the foot of the path are home to several protected species, managed by a private commission of local rangers. For seven miles, the road and the occasional ranger's cabin are the only proof of human life. Electricity for the town, too, passes through this area, though proof of that is more obscure, underground conduits carrying it where treefalls won't take it out.
Toward the southern end, the forest thins, gradually replaced by scrub brush and grasslands where deer are often found to graze.
Jack was very easy to deal with - and since he met Ardis once before, he was quick to invite her over to the cabin, admitting he just came back from a long ride and he's home right /now/ if she can come over?
When she does, Jack's left the front door open and he's apparently cleaning up a bit, shaking off some rugs outside on the front porch. Troll, the horse, has a cover on and is outside munching hay. The weather is clear and sunny today, and right now it's warmer than it has beenin days. The mud is kept at bay here as Jack's strewn wood chips in the paddock and on the yard, so it's mostly dry.
The car that stops at the base of the dirt road looks more than a few years old and like it maybe /used/ to be black once but there's been a lot of driving around bumpy, dusty old hills since then, not to mention the rain, wind, and snow. But it also looks like it's been pretty well maintained... Maybe. Ardis gets out and walks the rest of the way up to the cabin. She stops for a look at Troll on the way. By the time that she reaches the steps to the porch, there's a big smile on the scientist's face. "Salutations!" she says.
Ardis laughs. She crouches down to invite the dog in for a big hug and rub behind the ears, saying something to him in a low voice about how strong and clever he looks. She stands up again and says, with the same big, white grin, nearly all her teeth showing, "I like everything that crawls and everything that walks, swims, or flies, too." She nods and puts her hands into the pockets of her thick black winter coat at the offer of some coffee. "Naturally! Thank you for the invitation."
"Goblin likes you," Jack says, naming his dog too. Goblin himself is bouncing inside, but stays near Ardis to perhaps get more scritches, tongue lolling out in excitement. Once they're inside, Jack closes the door - it's a bit chilly in the cabin but that's cause he aired it out and did some cleaning but there's a fire blazing in the fireplace so it'll warm up soon. He is quick to throw the rugs back out on the wood floor, and kicks his boots off. "Have a seat," he says, gesturing for the table that only has two chairs at it, as he goes to fill up coffee for both of them from a thermos he's prepared, all set at the table already with milk and sugar if she wants. There's even an ashtray there, with a few butts in it - someone's been smoking. "I've thought about keeping Troll over at the Fry family farm, but if I can get some help looking after him, it'll work out just fine keeping him here too. Right now, I take him back to the farm if I have to be gone for a few days. I figure, if I can get some to help out here, he doesn't have to travel so much."
"I like Goblin," answers Ardis, promptly. She does seem more than happy to bestow even more scritches on the friendly dog while Jack makes the place cozy. She's still talking to him, too, about his many sterling qualities, when the rugs are laid out and it's time for coffee. The scientist takes quick strides over to one of the empty chairs and sits down promptly. She looks about like she's taking the whole room in and seems to like what she sees, from the chill to the ashtray to the fire and coffee out of a thermos. Still smiling at Jack, she says, "I'd be happy to spend time with Troll. He looks like a lovely horse. Do all your animals have such names? Do you have a Banshee or a Tomte or anything, too?"
The dog settles down next to Ardis, leaning up against her leg, shedding hair all over her clothes. Jack leans back with a content sigh, finally able to relax and have some coffee too; noticeably, he has nothing to offer with the coffee, no cake or cookies. Spartan. He snorts amusedly at her question, admitting: "If I get a bird, it'll be named Fairy. Cat? I like Banshee, I think I'll steal that - thanks. I'm probably getting a cat, I could use some pest control around here." With a stable, he probably gets a fair share of mice in there and in the house. "You seem to know your way around animals - had any experience with horses?"
"Yes," says Ardis. She doesn't appear to mind Goblin's hair, reaching down to keep stroking the dog now and then. She takes one of the mugs of coffee, too, but doesn't add any sugar or milk. After a long drink of the stuff, which is still so hot that steam's pouring up into the still-cold air, she explains, "I might not be from this town but I'm still from New England. I spend most of my time outdoors. At least, when I'm not lecturing." She still has that big smile going. "You don't have a bird or a cat yet? You'll be needing to build up your menagerie!"
"Riding, too?" Jack says - it's a simple sort of job interview, he seem to find her trustworthy, questions asked more out of curiosity, and wanting to know what she needs. "Troll is a really nice horse - he's five years old, he's very calm and used to the traffic, other animals. So, riding him is fine, long as you send me a text that you are. I'd hate it if something happened and I didn't know about it, so I'd also ask you to text me when you're back." He tilts his head, considering it, slight grin on his lips. "I work a lot. And a bird... well, I suppose I could bring him with me, I bring Goblin everywhere. Cat would be fine on his own, long as I got a catflap. What about you, got any pets?"
Ardis nods. "I can ride." She gives Goblin another pat and watches Jack think through his concerns regarding the care for Troll. "Of course, I can let you know when I come and go and if anything out of the ordinary happens. Including riding." She glances toward the front of the cabin, on the path beyond which Troll is out munching hay with his cover on. Back to Jack. "Do you need to take all your animals with you all the time? What happens if you leave them here?" Ardis looks quite curious about this: leaning forward and crossing her arms over the table as she does so. "Do they just get lonely?" As for herself, she shakes her head and answers, "No pets. I have an apartment."
"I'm gone long stretches of time, due to work, sometimes. So, Goblin is with me always. Troll... well, he's a bit difficult to fit into the car," Jack says, smiling wryly. "But I got a horse trailer for him, sometimes he comes with me in work. Horses can go where cars can't. So, he's also an employee of the Vermont Park Rangers, in a way. He's fine being left on his own for a day, but I'd just like some help checking up on him now and then, you know? Now that spring's here, he can walk in and out of the stable - but it's just that... social thing. I don't have any company around for him, yet." He's obviously very concerned about this, loving that horse, and wanting it to be as comfortable as possible. "So yeah. I don't want him to be lonely." She's absolutely right, there. Finishing the coffee, he refills his and hers if she wants some more; he also drinks it black. "I can't pay much," he confesses, squinting at her.
Listening to Jack's explanation, Ardis nods. She has another sip of the hot black coffee before responding, "I know. I can see that." Here, her smile gets wider and brighter than ever, and she winks at the ranger. "Not to worry! You're doing me a favor, in a way. I never expected to stay here so long and I didn't set up to have a place to go out of doors, or to spend time with animals. Those things are important to me." She gestures toward the place on the other side of the walls where Troll is grazing. Then looks down at Goblin and gives him a big wink and a grin, too. Looking at Jack again, she says, "You're right. All kinds of animals need companionship."
Goblin wags his tail a bit extra and looks back up at her - are those a bit too intelligent eyes for a dog? - and then he nudges his nose at her hand, begging for more behind-the-ears scratching. "You're welcome here anytime you want. But yeah, let me know when you head over. I might call and ask if you /can/ come over, if I know I'll be gone for awhile, but don't feel obliged to - I realise this is a few hours a week thing." Jack stands up now, gesturing for the door. "Let's go out and meet the other rascal then."
"If I'm free," says Ardis, easily, "I'll come." She gives Goblin another thorough scratch behind the ears before standing up to follow Jack out the door. "You come, too," she tells the dog. "You're very important, Chief Goblin. Goblin Chief."
Oh they're going outside! Goblin is all excited again, like dogs tend to be - no matter that he was outside like ten minutes ago. Jack grins, puts his boots back on, and leads the way outside to the side of the house, where a very large paddock stretches out on a field. Like he said, the side of the stable is open now, allowing Troll to go in for shelter if he wants. There's hay under an awning, keeping it dry. Water in a large trough outside, but also one of those automatic water dispensers sometimes used for cows, inside the stable. Everything's tidy and clean and well kept - he's put more money into the building of the stable, than keeping the cabin up to snuff.
Jack opens the paddock gate and calls for Troll who trots over with a spring to his step, tossing his head. "Troll, come meet Ardis. She'll come over and spend time with you sometimes." The hors snorts, almost as if understanding, turning those big brown eyes on the woman and bending neck in to sniff at her curiously.
Outside! Though it's a little less obvious than with Goblin, Ardis, too, seems excited and enlivened to be outside. The cold air of calendar-says-spring-but-there's-still-snow-on-the-ground makes the tip of her nose and her cheeks pink as the wind blows back her black hair. She heads toward the paddock gate after Jack, looking down now and then to see where Goblin has got to and just how the dog is doing. When Troll comes toward them, the scientist smiles and holds still to be inspected. "Pleased and enchanted to meet you, indeed," she tells the big horse. All her focus is on Troll while he sniffs her out and she holds her hand up for him to smell, too. When the horse seems satisfied enough that there's a natural slow-down of the investigation, Ardis reaches up to brush the dark hair back from his high, smooth forehead. Fingers moving gently over the soft, short fur in the flat space between his eyes, scratching just lightly.
Jack remains quiet and lets the two get acquainted without interference, just hovering nearby. He throws a stick for Goblin idly, to let the dog get rid of some energy - he's bouncing around the yard like a puppy, sometimes running up to bump Ardis before shooting off, sometimes bringing that stick over to Jack.
Troll sniffs Ardis hand, her hair - he is calm and content. He bumps his forhead against her hand as she brushes him, clearly liking that, even nibbling gently at the sleeve of her coat in appreciation.
"We just came back from a long ride, otherwise you could've had one today if you wanted," Jack says apologetically, looking at the two, relaxed as he sees the two getting along fine. NOt that he was very worried. "I'll show you where all the gear is," he suggests, gesturing for them to go into the stable.
==========-< << Weathered Cabin - Stable (#6035) >> >-==========
This space is a combined stable and garage. Exiting the cabin, the first space is an open area that serves as a combined toolshed and horse gear area. There's shelves lining one wall and the saddles and bridles on another. Next to that there's a large barn door to open up and let the horse out through. The horse has a large, cozy area behind a swing-door.
There's another door leading into the actual garage, which is just a simple addon with walls and a roof to keep snow off, and a garage gate that you have to open by hand.
"I don't mind," Ardis tells Jack. She lets Troll nibble on her sleeve and starts to rub the horse on his withers, smoothing down his warm brown coat, before closing the gate to the paddock behind them. She gives Troll one more pet and starts to walk toward the stable after Jack, letting the horse follow or go back to grazing in his field or under his awning as he prefers for now.
Troll does follow along, quite docile and at ease, but curious to see what the humans are up to and perhaps wanting a bit more attention from Ardis still. Goblin is doing his thing, running back and forth - Troll seem to not be bothered by the dog at all, the two are old friends after all.
Inside, Jack explains where everything is, how it all works, showing her the equipment and noting if there's anything special with any of it.
"I'll be around the first time you come over, don't worry. I mean... I'm sure you'll be fine, just call me overly cautious. I want you to be safe." And maybe the horse? But he doesn't say that, giving her a smile. "Any questions?"
Ardis laughs. "Be as cautious as you like!" she says, smiling back at Jack, bright-eyed. "They're your friends, aren't they?" She says the word like the animals might need a stronger word than 'friend' but the right one hasn't quite come to mind yet. She pays close attention to all the ranger's descriptions of the equipment and Troll's different requirements, then says, "Yes. What does Troll like best? What makes him happy?" She glances toward the horse and dog here, still smiling, before turning her focus back to Jack.
"They're my friends," Jack says seriously, nodding at her assessment; she understands him right. He moves to pet Troll some himself, brushing the side of his neck with firmness, and takes a moment to check him over habitually.
"Hear that Troll? The nice lady wants to know what you like." He leans closer, pretending to (or is he pretending?) to listen to the horse. "Is that right? You like long walks in the forest, rolling in the mud and being brushed? Yeah, that mud thing... you like that a bit too much, I say." Jack gives Ardis a little wink. "He likes jumping over things too, sometimes I set up some low hurdles around and we just fool around."
"Nothing wrong with mud!" says Ardis. There's still the same bright sparkle in her large, black eyes. That little wink of Jack's makes her laugh. "Anything worth doing is worth cleaning up after." Spoken like someone whose hobbies generate a lot of mess. She smiles at Goblin and Troll, then asks Jack, "What about you, Folklore Whisperer? Do you have any more questions for me?"
Troll just snorts and tosses his head a bit, then buffs Jack's shoulder playfully before he walks back out, to eat some more hay. The ranger picks up a sturdy broom and sweeps some dried mud outside, always making sure it's as tidy as can be in there. "I could run a background check on you," he jokes. "But I'll settle for the usual; where are you from? How come you ended up here, of all places? Family around, or... just work related?"
"Check away," says Ardis. She doesn't seem at all worried about what might turn up. "I heard about some interesting butterfly sightings in these parts and had to hop over!" She watches Troll move back out before looking to Jack again. "I teach entomology at a college nearby. This wasn't so out of my way."
"Did you find them? The butterflies?" Jack asks, curious. He checks that water fountain - it works fine. He sits down on a haybale and stretches his legs out - he's a bit tired, after having been out for a long time with Troll. "I meant it by the way, when we met at Cat-22, about teaching us some about insects. You do lectures outside of college? We know a lot about the big animals, less about the really small ones."
"Yes, sure! Of course. I'll talk about the really small ones to anyone who'll listen," says Ardis. She grins. "For as long as anyone will listen." There's something a little rueful about her expression, like maybe she hasn't generally found that to be very long, or maybe like she's overrun her welcome more often than not on this topic. "I haven't found the butterflies yet, no. But on the bright side, I'm still here."
"We're intersted. Forest conservation is a big deal, insects are a big deal for that purpose. Just try not to be too scientific about it," Jack says, half joking. "I'll give you a call and we'll set something up. You'd get paid, of course." He stands up and says, somewhat regretfully; "Afraid that's all the time I have for now, I need to head off to the office and make a report. But we'll see each other next week?"
He'll walk with her to her car, and make sure she gets on her way safely - it's muddy, she might get stuck with that car after all - and he'll get her an e-mail adress where she can reach him, and a phone number to the park ranger office.