GETTING THE COWS

This is a memory of a day in mid-summer when my cousin and I were in our teens. I grew up on a dairy farm. Every year my dad put about a hundred tons of hay in the barn. Getting it while it was dry was essential.
“Those clouds look like rain,” Daddy said. “Wish I could the last load of hay in the barn, but I’ve got to get the cows.” He sat drinking the coffee Mama had sent to him.

My cousin, Norma and I stood by the wagon. Chum, our dog, stood on the wagon waiting.
“Can Norma and I go get the cows?”

Daddy looked across our small valley. “They’re over in the woods. I don’t want you lost.”

“We could take Chum,” I said.

“True. Chum will keep track of you.”

“Can we, Uncle Miles?

“Yeah. Go tell your mother. Don’t get lost!”

“We won’t,” I yelled as we ran to give Mama the news.

“That would be a big help to Daddy. Take Chum and don’t get lost,” she said.

Norma and I ran through the barn, past the big red and white bull in his stanchion, past my pony in her stall, past the calves in their pens, and out the back door. Chum knew his job. He was beside us when we stopped at the top of the knoll and looked over to the opposite hill. No cows were in sight. They’d stayed out of the heat in the shelter of the woods.

Hand in hand, we walked down the hill to the bridge across the creek. Chum ran through the creek and stopped midway across it to lap up a drink. Now he trotted across the flat pasture to the other hill.

We stopped to lean over the bridge railing. No fish in sight. “Too hot,” Norma said.

I agreed. “They’re under the rocks. Chum’s going up the hill. We’d better hurry.” We stepped carefully across the swampy area trying not to get our feet wet. Then, we ran up the side of the hill. Out of breath we stopped halfway up the slope.

The first cows were already coming out of the lane. By the time we got to the opening in the woods, most of the cows were heading toward the barn. We plopped down on a large rock to rest.

“Where’s Chum?” Norma asked. “He always followed the last cow.”

We looked over the valley below us. “He’s probably checking a woodchuck hole,” I said.

Woof, woof, woof!

“Chum never barks unless something is wrong,” I said. “We have to find him. I hope he’s not hurt.”

We followed the sound into the woods. In a small green space between the trees, we saw the cow. She wouldn’t move for Chum. When he tried to nip her heels, she kicked at him and swung her head at him.

Norma poked my ribs. “She has a baby.”

There at the cow’s udder, a brand new calf stood on wobbly legs sucking down its first meal.

“What are we going to do?” Norma asked.

“Daddy says the mother will go anywhere the calf is. All we have to do is get the calf out of the woods and down the hill.”

“Easy.”

“Right.”

Again Chum tried to bite the cow’s heels. The mama went after Chum, leaving the calf alone.

“Maybe we can carry the calf,” Norma said. I put my arms around the back of the baby. Norma wrapped hers behind the front legs. We tried to lift. I fell backwards.

“Let’s try pushing instead.”

Mama cow kept trying to get between us and the baby. But with Chum’s help we managed to shove the baby a few feet toward the lane and the open hillside. We let go to get our breath.

“Moo.”

The newborn moved lightening. It was nearly back to where we started before we caught it. We’d learned a lesson. Don’t let go of the calf. It seemed to take forever to get the calf into the open lane. “Uncle Miles will think we’re lost.”

We laughed. “Chum knows where we are.” Maybe it would be easier to get the calf to move down the lane.

The three of us, Chum, Norma and I finally had the baby calf out in the open. Mama cow, too. Each time she turned toward the woods, Chum threatened to nip her heels. He wouldn’t let her go back to call her baby. We continued to push and shove.

Then we heard it—the doodlebug. We saw it with the wagon. Help was on the way.
“You found a surprise. I didn’t think she’d have her baby until next week.” Dad said when he stopped. We told him our story.

“I got back with the hay. The cows were all in the barnyard but there was no sign of you girls or Chum. Just as I started to come look for you, I spotted you pushing this baby out of the lane. I thought I’d help you out.”

“The calf is awful heavy,” I said.

“Stubborn too,” Norma said.

A dark cloud appeared over the hill. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Let’s go home,” Daddy picked up the baby calf and laid it on the wagon. Chum jumped onto it while Norma and I were happy to climb into our seat for a ride to the barn.
Mama cow trotted along behind. She was not leaving her baby.

This girl calf that my mother named Lady grew up to be one of the best milkers in the barn. My mother took her milk for our family’s use and to make butter. The milk we couldn’t use went with the rest of the day’s milk to the creamery.

 

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Life and Gravestones

 

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Laurie Buchanan’s post this week (http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2018/11/27/in-between/ ) prompted me with some thoughts that often float through my mind.

 My daughter and I have visited many old cemeteries searching for markers of ancestors. The dates on the stones may be in the 1800s, 1700s, or 1600s.

It is somewhat daunting to remember that every single person in the cemetery had a life of joys and sorrows—joys and sorrows like the ones we have faced, or are still part of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own events, we forget all those people whose names are on those stones lived a life like us. They had children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. They had people who brought them sadness and laughter. Some were comics, others too serious, some were optimistic, others pessimistic. Some traveled to many places in the world, and some lived their lives in one small town or village.

Whatever or wherever they went in life they knew the same sorrows and joys, tears and laughter that we have in our lives. Hopefully, when someone studies our gravestone a hundred years from now, that person will remember that we laughed and cried today.

The answer to Laurie’s question this week:  Life has gifted me with people and places and opportunities I would not have dreamed possible. I have had sadness, but it hasn’t overwhelmed the joys which God has given me in my family and the people He brought into my life.

 

A LETTER TO A GRANDSON

This is from a letter written by my husband. It is my Valentine gift to you.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Dear Grandson,

You were born on the 28th of August 2006, just three days ago. You will not read or understand what I am writing for a good number of years. And by the time you read this, I will be buried, having lived a good, rich exciting and satisfying life.

What can I possibly write at this time that will make any sense to you as you begin to read? What would I most want you to understand, realize, inherit, or discover? I have no profound wisdom, though I’ve enjoyed learning all my life.

I also hope that perhaps you will be able some day to read some of my journals, poetry, and essays. I have written much, published little, and never had the discipline to write a book.

I want you to know how important love is in our lives, your life. Know without question that you are loved even before birth. Your parents, my son and his lovely, intelligent, creative wife, your mother, loves you more deeply than can be expressed in these words. And as an old popular song sung by Nat King Cole many years ago, “The Greatest thing you’ll every learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

So, to love and be fully, unconditionally, continually without having to constantly earn that love, is about as wise as I can because that has been the experience of your father’s parents.

At another time he wrote:

(Parenthetical thoughts)
Monday, February 21, 2011
(I just took a writing break and sat in the other room leafing through some of my writing from past Februaries in the South. I’ve decided to take up brick making. I’ll imprint my words on bricks, fire them, and then bury them in abandoned blue stone quarries and let them be discovered some later centuries by anthropologists seeking evidence of our decline as a world power.)