Friday, September 25, 2009

Summer the Heifer Calf Comes to the Farm

Summer, the heifer calf came to the farm one July day in the most miraculous way. Moving day had come and gone for my nephew's herd, a half mile east of The Farm. All of his cows and their spring-born calves had been loaded and moved out. A half mile back to the west I was bottle feeding a Holstein steer and enjoying the cool morning of a hot July day. As I hung onto the square, two-quart plastic bottle while the steer nursed his fill I heard a calf bawling off to the west. Just a time or two..then it stopped. That night I heard it again and it bawled the whole time the steer nursed. The next morning I heard it again but just barely. Something was not right. I decided to go check it out and ...well, it's Summer's story so I'll let her tell it in her own way.....

Summer Comes to the Farm
How one little heifer calf came to the farm.

The first thing I ever saw was my mother's face. She worked hard to clean a lot of goop off of me. I don't know how it got all over me but I felt a lot better when she finished. Standing up was really hard but my mother kept encouraging me and told me she had a really good surprise in a pocket behind her leg but I had to stand up to get it. She was so right! It took me a while to find it but it was a GOOD surprise. It made my tummy feel all warm and good and suddenly I was very sleepy. I crumpled onto the grass and while I was drifting off to sleep I could still hear her crooning to me. The world was a very nice place.

The second time I filled my tummy she told me we were going to move to a quieter place and she started to walk away. I followed as best I could until we came to a low place at the foot of a little hill. She said it was the pond dam and that it would be shady from the big trees all day and a safe place because the smaller trees covered me up pretty well. She told me that no matter what ever happened that I was not to make any noise or leave the hidey hole if she was not there to watch over me. I stayed in that hidey hole for several days. I watched the turkey mothers and their chicks strut up the path to the pond early each morning and the deer came in the evening. They hardly gave me a glance. Sometimes in the afternoon dogs came, sometimes three or four dogs, and when the dogs came my mother always stood over me and never took her eyes off the dogs. My mother did not like dogs.

After a day or two, each morning I would take a run, making short circles and hiking my tail and it was so much fun. The world was a very nice place.

Then one afternoon I was wakened by a lot of loud noises. Grinding, rattling noises and banging noises and loud-voice noises. I peeked through the screen of leaves that covered my hidey hole and saw several very strange creatures. Something had happened to their front legs and they had to do the best they could on just their hind legs. Their legs had hardly any hair on them at all!! They were chasing all the cows and waving their poor front legs at them and making them go into a little pen and my mother was one of them that went into the little pen. All the cows and the other calves, who were all older and a lot bigger than me, had to go into the little pen.

And I did as my mother said and made no noise at all and did not leave my hidey hole and pretty soon I was very sleepy again and I dozed off. It was the quiet that finally woke me. It was very quiet. Sometimes quiet is good and sometimes quiet is very scary and this was a very scary quiet. There was no other sound around me. I could no longer hear the rumble-rumble of my mother's stomach. I could hear no munching of the other cows or the sound of their drinking at the water's edge. I heard nothing. And it was very scary but I did as my mother had told me and lay very still. Night was falling and my tummy was feeling cold and empty. I expected my mother to come back to the pond dam, swinging my surprise beneath her. But she did not come. And I began to cry. I'm sorry, but I couldn't help it. It was time for my surprise and my tummy hurt and I did not want to be alone. I called for my mother and asked her please to come back but she did not come.

All night I waited but she did not come. The deer came again to stand at the top of the dam and in the morning the turkey mothers and their chicks passed my hidey hole and in the afternoon the dogs came. I was afraid of the dogs without my mother there to watch and I lay very still hoping they would not see me. Surely my mother would come by night. But she did not and again I cried and called for her but she did not come and my tummy was hurting. It hurt so bad I left my hidey hole and went in the moonlight to the pond's edge and sniffed the wetness and drank. It was not good like my mother's goodness but it helped the hurting in my tummy. I went back and lay down to wait some more and when morning came I was too tired to cry very hard or call very loud but I did call one more time. Surely she would come this morning but she did not come.

And then I heard sounds but not my mother's sounds so I did not leave my place. And when I turned my head one of the strange creatures was standing not very far away. She talked softly, not hollering like the other creatures when they made my mother go in the pen, but she moved closer and closer until I finally jumped to my feet and she turned and walked away.

And it was very quiet again. And my tummy really hurt. Not long after that the creature came back and another creature with her and they both talked very quietly but moved closer and closer and she did not walk away when I jumped up so I panicked and ran and ran as fast as I could toward the tall trees across the meadow at the bottom of the dam. And because of their poor front legs, I suppose, they did not try to follow me.

It was hot in the tall trees and pretty soon another creature was there talking to me and he began to sing and hum and he kept singing and humming and the sound was so interesting that he was very close to me before I even noticed. In fact he had touched my head and back and neck with his front legs! And I jumped to my feet. But he neither walked away or came toward me but moved slowly to the side and I moved away from him and kept moving trying very hard not to panic and before I knew it I was in a place where I couldn't go any farther. I was in the little pen!

And then he walked away but returned with the other creature and they followed me on either side into a corner and grabbed me and the bigger creature lifted me up and I believed for the first time that there was nothing wrong with their front legs. And he put me in a big, hard box and the box moved.

Then I was lifted again and carried to a place I know my mother would have liked. There was sweet grass and the light was dim and no scary thing was around.

And then one of the creatures came back and she had a square thing attached to her front legs that she stuck in my mouth and after I bit it a couple of times I realized! It was another surprise!

But this creature didn't really know much about it and she made it much harder than it ought to be and I had to work very hard to get anything from the square box and there was really no reason to make it that hard! My mother had made it very easy, the surprise just came out, but this was very hard. I lost patience and banged at it and butted it and one time I banged it so hard it came off of the creature and flew into a corner. Then we had to start all over again. But finally we worked it out and my tummy was full and warm again and I was very sleepy and I dropped into the sweet grass and went to sleep.

And here I am.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September in North Missouri:

God became so weary of all the heat and sludge and blowing snow and typhoons and sub-zeros necessary for this old planet to remain productive that he took himself off to North Missouri and declared it September.

There he ordered all skies blue, all grass to whisper, all clouds to be white and float gently, all birds to rest and sing. He asked for the blue chicory to line the roadsides and yellow sunflowers to adorn the fence rows. He sprinkled the fields with the white of Queen Anne's Lace.

In the early morning he called out the softening mist and the wild turkey to walk in it, and at twilight, the deer. He coaxed the delicious puffball mushroom from out of the pasture grasses and allowed the scent of fresh-cut alfalfa to waft over the land.

At night he raised the sickle moon in a clear obsidian sky and allowed the stars their purest glow. He called out the great horned owls to take their places in the giant white-oak trees that line the creek bottoms and was calmed by their gentle "whooo...hoo".

Realizing that the great owls needed an opening act of sorts the cicadas were strewn across the gullies and woodlands to fill the twilight with their mezzo voices.

And to keep him cognizant of time he posted the coyote at each hill top...their "yip-yiiip..yip...yiip"s in the stillness of the predawn, reminding him that winter must come.

But for now it is September in North Missouri.

And it is beautiful.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dinner at Home

At our house, when I was a kid, meals were important events treated with respect. The food was set out on the long table in the dining room, two chairs connected by planks on each side, a chair or two at each end, the highchair for the littlest baby against one wall and more often than not another baby perched on a couple of old Sears Roebuck catalogs and tied onto a kitchen chair.

A little while before the food was set out and the babies were attached the clean-up call for supper went out. First, whoever happened to be doing mechanic work under the elm tree in the front yard was notified. Then the yard kids were called in, then the bigger kids and whoever was company, whoever had done the cooking sat down, and then Mother, after a couple of screeches out the back door for any straggler who might still be out in the woods or down at the crick, would put out the cat and take her place at the end of the table.

At that point an almost spiritual hush of communion would fall upon us. It generally lasted about four seconds before the bowls and platters began to pass around the table. and we were once again overtaken by our natural human frailties and familial frictions. It seemed that we could not make it through a meal without somebody bawling, fainting, fighting or puking.

My oldest sister would be in tears over one thing or another, generally a boy. This would set at least one of the babies off and the contagion would spread. My brother, the middle one, would be trying very hard above the uproar to clue us in on his latest opinions regarding the morality of capitalism, gesturing wildly with a tarnished fork in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. All too often he successfully suckered some stranger, (some body's company) into a loud nearly violent political or ideological discussion. More often than not he managed to insult and otherwise alienate someone at every meal.

One of my sisters had a weak stomach. As the almost youngest, it was hard for my brother, Merle and I to remember that any mention of stuff like worms, maggots, run-over cats, fish guts and such high lights of our day were not to be spoken of. It was a rare meal at our house when she did not have to take a run to the bathroom at least once. She cried pretty easy too.

Mother, who survived our family meals by reading the Times, almost always came upon some article that affected her mightily. One time a Catholic School in Chicago burned and we all, struck at least temporarily dumb, listened spellbound with forks raised, to the details of how the heroic nuns led their choking little charges from the burning building. Roosevelt's speech following Pearl Harbor was read to us. (He wasn't nearly as riveting as the heroic nuns.) We knew every publicized detail of every murder, rape, kidnapping and act of mayhem that occurred within the reach of the Times and the Associated Press. At election time we were often awed to silence, (short ones) by Mother's descriptions of the character of most of the local candidates, with whom she seemed to have had at least passing words at some time or other.

At our table I've seen strangers absent mindedly hand a platter or bowl on without remembering to help themselves. This was a mistake because a platter or bowl NEVER made it around the second time at our house. Company always seemed to be impressed by the serious nature of our family mealtime.

I've heard it said that families don't eat set-down meals together like they used to. That's too bad.

I can still hear my mother's words on the subject as we straggled away from the table..
" I wish I could eat just one G.....D...... meal in peace.