It was a half hour past midnight on Friday morning, and Mindy Lindbergh was worried.
She had just seen a Facebook post warning that two horses, one of them a huge draft horse, were running free on North Fork Road. The post was hours old and Lindbergh couldn’t see any indication that anyone had rounded them up yet.
“It was so foggy out last night, people drive way too fast on North Fork and they were out just randomly wandering. If somebody hit them, it would absolutely kill the horse, and it would hurt if not kill the person in the car,” Lindbergh told me.
She also knew that draft horses can be expensive, and she didn’t want the wrong person to catch him.
Lindbergh messaged and then called up her best friend, Taylor Workman. There was a job to do, and it looked like they were the ones who needed to do it.
“When nobody had caught them after three hours, I was like nope, nope, nope,” Lindbergh said.
She knew she had to head out and try to help, despite the fact that they both live in Mossyrock. That is a good half-hour drive to the end of North Fork Road in rural Chehalis on a good day. But it was so foggy that they could only drive 20 to 30 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 12.
Lindbergh, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom, had loose horses on her mind. Just that morning one of her new horses had slipped out three different times within an hour. A loose horse in the daytime is bad enough, but at night it’s a life-and-death situation.
When they spotted the horses near the end of North Fork Road, they pulled off to the side of the road. Lindbergh wrapped herself up in her daughter’s blanket from in the back seat of the truck, put on a headlamp and they headed out into the cold. They managed to catch the less giant of the pair of geldings.
“I kind of just swooped the rope over his neck real quick,” she said. “The big, big one wasn’t having anything to do with being caught. And he was huge. At least 18 hands. I’m only 5-4.”
It was around this time that Gwen Servey, a horse owner herself who lives on North Fork Road, woke up when she heard her own seven horses hollering.
It was about 3:30 a.m. and when she heard noises, she put on layers of warm clothes (it was 29 degrees out there, but felt much colder in the fog) and went out to check on her horses.
She saw lights in her big field and the women trying to catch the second horse that towered over them — Lindbergh estimates he was 5-8 at the shoulders and at least 1,600 pounds.
Servey, who recognized the horses as belonging to a neighbor a few miles down the road, quickly moved her own horses around to make a paddock for them. They led in the one horse they had caught, and the draft horse quickly followed.
Servey was deeply impressed with these women who ventured out in the middle of the freezing night.
“They didn’t know where they were going. They were just really concerned that someone would get hurt or the horses would get hurt,” Servey said. “That draft horse is twice the size of an elk. If someone had hit him everyone could die. It was foggy and icy and dark and slick and all kinds of bad things could have happened.”
After being outside for so long, “they were frozen little popsicles,” Servey told me.
“They were just totally focused on keeping everybody safe,” she said. “That’s so cool that they were willing to get up in the middle of the night and put themselves in danger, not knowing anything about the horses or the area.”
Indeed. This story brings to mind the good old Lewis County spirit of seeing a job that needs doing, and stepping forward to do what needs to be done to help out your neighbors and your neighborhood. Out here in the country, it’s just what you do. Next time it might be you who needs a little help. And it reminds me that if you ever need anything done, you can’t find anyone better than a Lewis County horsewoman.
I asked Lindbergh why would she drive out to a whole different part of Lewis County in the middle of the night to take care of someone else’s loose horses?
“Honestly, I would hope that someone would do that for my horses, if my horses got out,” Lindbergh said. “I hate to see any animal, of course, get hit, but I’ve been an avid horse lover since I got my first horse when I was 4 years old and I’m 43.”
And so for the love of horses, and her neighbors, she and her best friend — and a like-minded stranger who saw them at work and joined right in — endured a cold night and the hard task of corralling two very big horses.
Their reward was the satisfaction of faithfully completing a job that wasn’t theirs to do, but that needed to be done.
Brian Mittge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.