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A Miraculous Midnight Roundup

Only trouble could come a-knockin’ at this hour, but she didn’t expect to learn that all her horses were out of their corral.

An artist's rendering of a cowboy rounding up frightened horses at night
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Barking dogs jolted me out of a sound sleep. The clock read 1:23 a.m. Must be a raccoon outside, I thought, rolling over. Too bad the dogs are inside!

I’d had a full day at work downtown before coming back to Dogwood Sport Horses, the breeding farm that my sister owned. When I came home I’d gotten the horses their nighttime rations and moved them into the pasture with a windbreak to shield them from the predicted cold.

My work day was over. What could be the problem at this time of night?

The dogs kept it up. Much as I wanted to deny it, this was no “there’s-a-raccoon-out-there” alarm. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on a robe.

Loud knocks sounded at the front door. This can’t be good. Shouldn’t everyone be asleep now?

The dogs crowded around the front door. A dark figure loomed on the stoop, backlit in the bright moonlight. It wasn’t Raphael, the hired hand. He was too tall and thin. I turned on the porch light. But I hesitated to open the door. What could a stranger want at this hour? I was all alone in the house.

“Do you have horses?” the man called through the door. “A lot of them? Because they’re all out on the road!” 

“Oh my gosh!” I went up to the bedroom and pulled on shoes. Horses out in the road? In the middle of the night? How did that happen?

I stumbled outside in my black rubber muck boots and robe. Even with the ropes I hastily grabbed, I must have looked like the last person capable of handling a horse crisis.

“My name’s Benjamin,” the man said, politely ignoring my outfit. “I drove around that curve by your driveway on my way home. Some of the horses meandered out in the road right in front of me. I thought they must have gotten loose from someone’s stable. Good thing I came to your house first.”

“Thank God you did,” I said. Fourteen horses were scattered on the grass and across the road, with the majority in the newly planted field on the other side.

A herd of horses will usually follow a leader, so I slipped a lead rope over a brown mare and walked her toward the pasture, hoping others would follow. Benjamin stood in the middle of the road to keep the horses on either side and flag down any cars.

People had been known to speed down our road this late at night. A collision with the horses could be fatal to the driver and the horse. Good thing Benjamin was going slowly, I thought, leading the mare through the gate into the pasture.

One down, thirteen to go, I thought, but a moment later that same mare trotted past me again. Obviously there was a gate open somewhere in the pasture, but I had no idea where.

While I was still trying to figure out what to do, the horses in the field bolted down the road that led to the neighboring town. “Oh, no!” I cried. If they went down the road we’d never catch them again.

I watched helplessly as the horses galloped off, their hooves pounding the concrete, but as they hit the curve of the road they slowed and stopped before turning around and coming back toward Benjamin. Thank you, God! I said, because I didn’t see who else could have stopped them.

Leaving Benjamin with the herd, I went to the assistant manager’s building and woke Raphael. The horses again ran off as I returned with him, but once again stopped at the curve as if they’d hit an invisible barrier. They trotted obediently back to Benjamin.

“Can you get them back in the pasture?” I asked Raphael. “I’ve tried leading one horse inside, but the others don’t follow.”

“Don’t walk the lead horse,” he said. “Just stand with her and wait for the others to calm down.”

Raphael stood with the mare. Almost immediately the other horses relaxed. Seeing my chance, I got some grain from the shed. “Come on,” I said, holding it in my hand. “Right in here.” Like obedient schoolchildren the horses followed me across the road and into the pasture.

“Now how do we keep them in there?” I said when we were all in the pasture. “We have to find the open gate.”

“Could I have one of those?” Benjamin said, pointing to the lead ropes still draped around my shoulders.

“Do you have experience with horses?” I said. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I used to work at a horse farm down the road,” said Benjamin. He pointed to a gate on the other side of the pasture. The chain had broken, leaving it swinging in the icy wind. “I’ll tie that shut.”

“You really were the perfect person to happen by tonight,” I said when Benjamin had secured the gate.

“I don’t know why I did happen by,” he said. “I was on my way home from college for the weekend. I make the drive all the time, but never on this road. I can’t explain why I did tonight.”

I could explain it. The horses would have been long gone by the time Raphael or I woke in the morning. Anyone of them might have been killed on the road—or killed someone else.

Instead they were safe in the pasture and I was going back to bed knowing that while I might sleep, God’s angels never do.

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