A Girl and her Cow

One day in the early spring, our cow, Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10-year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.

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This is my niece. She’s growing up on the same farm that I did.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly-legged calf was not her.  This new calf looked a lot like Belle: mostly black with just the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly.  Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  It didn’t take any love or marriage for cows, ’cause cows didn’t have souls.  They were still God’s creatures, that’s for sure, but they never ate apples from that tree in the Garden of Eden, so no rules, and no sins. ‘Course there weren’t any cows in heaven either, so that was the down side of all that freedom.

Dad was really good at picking out names; he picked out all the girls names at my house, except for Mom’s of course.  Any Dodo bird would know that.  Dad even helped me name my doll, Jonesy-Belle, so for sure he would be a good help with this new calf of mine, the only one, besides Belle who was a genuine, registered Holstein.  Me and Dad put our heads together for days, trying to come up with names.  Dad helped Bonita name her calf Black Eyes; that was easy, she was mostly white with a few giant black blotches, and big black circles around her eyes.  Besides that, Dad called Bonita his black-eyed Susan, so Bonita loved calling her calf, Black Eyes.  Bonita was too little for 4-H and Black Eyes was just a regular old Holstein calf, not a registered Holstein, like mine.

One evening, while Dad was milking Belle, he said, “I got an idea, let’s name her after someone in the Vice-President’s family.”  He rested his head against Belle’s belly, and turned just enough to look at me. Continue reading

Endless Summers Behind and Ahead

Of course, when I was a little girl, the first day of school was the very best day of school, but the next best was the last day of school.  All the summer stretching out ahead of me was just marvelous, with no particular plans, except vacation in August.  I had animals to tend, the garden to hoe, lawn to mow, and I had to help with the cooking and cleaning and watching the Little Kids, but other than that, free time, like no other time of the year.  Plus, I got to ride my bike to school and wear shorts on the last day.

School was about five miles away, in town, so I had to get an early start.  Deanna and Bonita and Vickie and me from my house, Nancy and Doug from across the road and Cathy and Tom from next door, then we picked up more kids as we got closer to school:  Mike, Diane, Bob, and Annette and Brenda. We went single file for a half-mile down the paved road, until we got to Brenda’s house; the rest of the way was on dirt roads, so we could spread out any old way we wanted. Continue reading

“Be,” Like a Child

When I was a little girl, it was so easy to just be. Be in the moment, savor the present, appreciate the goodness that was me and mine. No worries, no troubles, everything was good. Well, not everything. I had lots of chores to do; sometimes I got in trouble or got hurt. Lots of times I did things wrong even before I knew the thing was wrong. At the same time, my life was filled with anticipation.
I found out after I was grown that most kids watched cartoons on Saturday morning. My mom was a genius t getting stuff done. Everyday I had I had barn chores or dishes to do morning or night. Clothes to fold, odd socks to sort, and of course Little Kids to watch. On Saturday I had catechism, then house-cleaning.

Sometimes, I got out of house-cleaning, ’cause Mom picked me to go grocery shopping with her. That was the berries, just me and Mom alone. She let me push the cart, which was an okay job, except for her going so slow, looking at every box of macaroni like there was a real find up there somewhere, so I had no choice but to twirl around so my dress ballooned out like a ballerina. Right about then Mom would say, “pay attention,” and she pressed her lips so tight together they almost disappeared.

As the cart got fuller, it got harder and harder to push, and even harder to stop. Plus, Mom stopped right in the middle of the aisle for no reason at all, and no matter how hard I pulled, kapow, the cart hit her right in the heels. Mom’s face took on a whole new look, with her eyebrows pulled together, her breath came out between her teeth in a sssissing sound.

“What did I tell you about following so close?” That’s the kind of question a kid’s not supposed to answer.

I got to watch TV when all my work was done. I liked to go outside better. For one thing, not that much good stuff was on TV by the time all the work got done, and for another thing, Deanna always wanted to watch those movies with the bouncing ball, which bored me stiff.

Me and Bonita built forts in the hayloft. Playing in the hayloft was off-limits, but we sneaked. I got the hay-hook and pretended to be a mountain climber, using the hay-hook to pull me up the mountain. That was super-fun until the bale let loose and the hay-hook went slammed full-force into my knee instead. That was almost as bad as when Deanna jumped out of a tree and landed on a board with a nail sticking out. Looking at the blood running out of her tennis shoe with the board stuck to the bottom made my legs hurt almost as much as getting that hay-hook in my knee. Deanna had to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot and get the board pulled off her foot. None of that happened to me. I just couldn’t walk for about a week and a half.

Lots of other stuff happened to us kids, so my hurts were nothing. Vickie got her tooth knocked right out of her head. Loren-dee-dee-bopper had lumps on his neck that no doctor could figure out, so he had to be in the hospital for a blue-moon. Johnny was allergic to everything and almost died from a haircut. Bonita broke her collar bones just being born. Julie had such bad eczema somebody at church offered to adopt her, so she could be taken care of proper. Frankie went #1 on the wall socket and started the wall smoking and shocked his peter pretty bad. Who knows why he did that. Probably the same reason I used the hay-hook to do some mountain climbing.

I was always waiting for something. Seemed like as soon as summer got here, I could hardly wait for school to start again. Once school started, I looked for snow. When was Christmas ever going to get here? After that my birthday, and I was sick of snow and cold. Why did it take so long for summer to come?
I suppose it’s that innocent anticipation and trust that everything will be good, even if it’s not now, that draws me so much to “Be like a Child.” Even when life is filled with work, we get hurt, and our dreams seem light-years away, if we have a network of love and trust, we have hope and faith. That’s way more important than goals and deadlines, worries and anxieties.

So I return to my touchstone word for 2012:   Be. Just be. And if you see someone twirling in the grocery store, well, that just might be me.

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Ladybird, A Blue Ribbon Heifer

Emblem of the 4H organisation.

Emblem of the 4H organisation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August is 4-H fair month.  I ran into some new friends who have daughters in 4-H and of course that got me ruminating about my experience.

The year I turned ten, in early spring, our cow, Old Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10 year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly legged calf was not her.

My new calf looked a lot like Old Belle: mostly black with the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly. There really is such a thing as a perfect look when it comes to Holsteins.  Too much white is bad, no white is bad too.

Old Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  Dr. Friese came to the door and asked for a tea-cup of hot water.  That’s how I knew a cow was gonna be pregnant pretty soon.  I had to stay in the house, I never got to watch, just like when the pigs got castrated. Continue reading

Keep on Swimming (and once in awhile float)

When I was a little girl, I thought I could do everything, if I just tried hard enough.  That’s how I learned to whistle.  That’s how I learned to jump rope.  That’s how I learned to swim.  I didn’t think of it as work, or perseverance, or competition.  I just thought it was finding a way to get what I wanted.  I was pretty good at it, too.

Once after Deanna and I, and Nancy, Deanna’s best friend from across the road, learned how to swim, our dads took us way, way out in the lake on inner tubes.  I loved to swim.  I could swim all day, I liked it so much.  The two dads swam out over their heads with us girls on our inner tubes.  Nancy had a huge inner tube from a tractor, that was the best fun ever, ’cause about six kids could fit on that inner tube all at the same time.  Deanna and I just had regular old inner tubes that had a bunch of patches on them ’cause they were finally no good for anything except swimming.  My dad believed in patching stuff up until there were more patches than stuff.  Nancy’s dad bought her inner tube from the gas station:  no patches; they were rich.

Way, way out in the lake was a sand dune.  Once the dads got out there, we got off the inner tubes.  Next the dads got in the inner tubes and us girls started swimming to shore.  Dad floated right behind, telling me what a good swimmer I was and ‘keep it up’, and ‘wow, I can’t believe how those girls can swim’, and other nice stuff like that.  It was super-easy, ’cause if I got tired of the Continue reading