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A Miracle Indeed
A short factual story by Donald Chalmers.  
Yes, it did happen to me!
Most People don’t know what a chanter is, let alone a practice chanter. But this is what I had brought with me as I travelled to far away Mildura from Melbourne, first by train to Swan Hill, then by bus. We were collected by the friends who had invited and taken us for the first time to “the block”.
The farmhouse itself (as a lot of the older places were) was situated not far from the back and centre of its rectangular and flat form. It had its regulation shade trees around it, and a few of the citrus variety. The place was very old and had not seen a coat of paint for many years. The kitchen, though, had been modernised, within a part of the built in and louvered verandah which surrounded it.
The farm itself was planted out wall to wall in grapes, mainly of the one variety. A pickers’ hut stood out in the middle of the block, unprotected from the incessant sun. But this was still growing time, and the place was deserted. We had been privileged indeed, and had been invited to stay at the big house, with our friends the new owners, in their 40’s and 50’s at that time.
We were treated to a great country feast that night, and the wining and dining went on till the wee small hours. During the night, I went out to pee, not in the toilet of course, but to conserve water in that dry land, under the stars. The lemon tree surely appreciated my copious ministrations that night!
What a wonderful star encrusted canopy overarched the heavens! Quite breathtaking, even for me, who had grown up to appreciate the stars from my times at Blackwood, and on the Wright farm at Addington. At this time I noticed in that silence, a horse in fairly close proximity, right across the channel, and on the other side of the fence. It was grazing, munching away quietly.
Next morning we had a rather late “brunch”, and then the others hurried off to an appointment and some shopping. I was pleased to be left all to myself; no stale alcoholic vapours for me! And so began the miracle! And it happened to ME! All alone in that solitude. Not a breath of air, and an absolutely still 30°C.
Sitting on the back verandah (in the shade of course!), I began to play my heart out. Forty years worth of remembered ancient melodies! All played on the practice chanter. The ancient art of Scottish Piobaireachd! The Glen is Mine, Lament for the Children, MacIntosh’s Lament, The Earl of Seaforth’s Salute, and so on!
I had played several of these tunes into that dry hot air, when suddenly, I saw a movement in the far distance. It looked like a horse, turning its head towards the sound! Incredible! I continued to play and observe. There were many other horses on the other side of the fence, a different property, and all far away. All seemed to be looking directly towards me and the sound……
Not wanting to disturb them, I slowly got up, and playing all the time, walked slowly across the water channel to the fence. As I did so, it seemed that the horses had been mesmerised, because they too came slowly closer and closer, until they stood in two concentric semicircles about me, shoulder to shoulder, watching me.
These were no ordinary group of horses. Obviously, from their fine lines, they were racehorses! They were the most beautiful (and expensive) sight! A few stragglers still came in, forming a third row behind the others. I tried to count them, but not wanting to break the spell, lost count as I continued to play.
One horse then come forward, slowly slowly, as I played, and got so close I could feel its breath on my fingers, then the hairs of its nose, and then the moist tip of its lip and tongue. It then backed up, resuming its place, and the next horse came forward to do the same thing. In all, at least 20 horses nuzzled my fingers and looked me in the eye, after waiting their turn.
As you can imagine (well, those of you who know about practice chanters, bagpipes and piobaireachd will know) all this took quite a considerable time, probably one hour from the time I left the shade of the verandah to make my way to the fence. Though leaning on a post, I was just about all in, and worried that I might be getting sunburnt. My fingers were aching, and I needed at least a change of pace, so I tried a different tack.
I played a March tune, of the type played in Pipe Bands. No sooner had I played the first bars of the march, I noticed that the spell had been broken, and the horses lost concentration, and one by one began to drift away, as they commenced grazing again. Play as I might, they took no further interest. But the miracle of my being able to speak to these beautiful animals through the ancient art of piobaireachd stays with me, and I wanted to share it with you.
Suffice it to say, that the rest of the weekend is just a blur, rendered insignificant by this miracle, which has stayed with me.
Miracles do happen, even when we least expect them!
My Perfect Day – a Miracle Indeed!
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Welcome to the Intricate Weaving of Something Beautiful:
Presented by Donald Chalmers 2006.