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Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

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Day five of my Manitoba adventure began early as usual. After getting myself organized for the day I greeted the usual faces seated around the breakfast table in the kitchen. Omelets were on the menu, and like in a fine dining establishment I was asked to choose from the ingredients on the table and a delicious personal omelet was delivered to my plate by our chef de cuisine, Chris. I liked sitting in the kitchen with my new friends. The children were always a welcome addition to the table, bubbling over with enthusiasm for the day ahead and filled with youthful exuberance for the world around them. Even if I still was in the process of waking up, I enjoyed seeing their fresh little faces across from me over another great meal.

Bob J., Ray and I were once again on our own. That day, I was told, we were going to be working with the animals, which was perhaps my favorite facet of farm life. Yay. Ray, always a fount of information, filled me in on our schedule for the afternoon. Apparently several times a year they “drag” the pastures to redistribute the manure. Oh boy. Poop again. They wait until the pasture patties are dry to do this. Ewwwww. Truly I cannot think of a subject more unwelcome to my stomach than excrement but certainly if you raise animals you are going to have waste. Having visited the pig pens with Eva and Dawn and unfortunately finding it necessary to inhale once I’d exhaled, I am here to tell you there was no shortage of animal waste in a farm environment and what there is beyond fragrant.  They don’t call odiferous people pigs for nothing. Whew. Cows aren’t much better I’m afraid. I can remember driving across Kansas turning the corner on one dairy farm after another and wondering if the incredibly strong ammonia stench would ever leave my nostrils. The human body, as amazing as it is in how it processes our intake, certainly could use an adjustment on how it is scented when recycled. I’m thinking lavender or camelia might have been a better fragrance choice. I’m just saying.

Bob J. suggested I wear old clothes, and in particular old high boots. This did not bode well for my day. Sigh.

As I have said there was all variety of critters roaming about the farm compound in addition to the herds in the field. Chickens wandered freely about the yard chucking and pecking at the ground, there were half a dozen goats who made their home there, and probably ten pigs and a litter of piglets in the large pen beyond the barn. When we toured the piggies quarters, Chris mentioned as Eva and Dawn get older they will most likely become active in the local 4-H program. Each girl will raise a pig to be shown at the county fair and then auctioned off to the highest bidder for meat. I wouldn’t make a good farmer. Already I had become attached to several cows and a piglet. Most probably I would become vegetarian if I had to sacrifice one of them for Sunday dinner.

Knowing how to tend to these creatures takes years of training, knowledge handed down older generation to younger over countless decades. There are vaccinations that have to be given, births to be overseen, proper feeding guidelines, as well as weather and sickness to be taken into consideration. The vet came while I was there, a woman perhaps in her mid thirties. Watching her work with confidence with the larger animals was inspiring. The animals seem to almost sense this person is there on their behalf. Always I have admired veterinarians. Unlike physicians tending to humans, vets have to versed in a wide variety of skeletal structures and a myriad of species nuances. I might do well with dogs and cats but the first time someone brought me a boa constrictor with a head cold or a tarantula with a hang nail I’d be outta there. Also, the likelihood of a human patient biting you is probably minimal, but vets must face unhappy patients with both claws and sharp teeth every day. I’ve seen Boo, the Queen of Cats, in action. To say she resists a visit to the vet is to put it mildly. I have to nearly go on a reconnaissance mission to get her in the cage. Funny thing though once I get her into the office the staff seems to be competent enough to keep her calm. She sits there quietly as though that was her usual behavior while they probe and poke at her. Cats, go figure.

Ray also told me you have to be aware how many cows are grazing on your land. Too many can be harmful to the land itself. There are a lot of pitfalls to farming apparently. Luxurious crops could be taken down by extreme weather, drought, insects, and many other variables. I found it all both fascinating and perplexing at the same time. My grandmother grew up on a farm and this experience definitely gave me more understanding of what her life might have looked like as a girl. Often when I was small she commented on how women today were “spoiled”. She said in her time there were no cake mixes, prepared meals, frozen dinners. Women back in the day were in the kitchen cooking their meals from scratch with no help from Betty Crocker.

I’m sure she would have been both pleased and surprised to find me working the farm in Manitoba. On morning five of my visit Bob J. and Ray were going to ride out to the pasture in the tractor. My job would be to follow them on the three wheeler carrying the water cooler, lunch, and some tools. Let me reiterate once again it took me three times to get my driver’s license and years to perfect my driving skills. Not only have I never ridden on a three wheeler but most certainly I’ve never driven one. As a kid I dabbled in boys with motorcycles but never actually drove one myself. The only time I was ever even alone on a bike was when I was in high school. A boy I knew had a Triumph 750. I was expressly forbidden to ride on the back of this machine so naturally that was where I was to be found. Hank, the owner of the bike, stepped off to go into a convenience store. He instructed me to straddle the bike and stand firmly on both feet until he returned. Check. Two minutes after he entered the store I leaned slightly to the right and the rest was history. Thankfully, once again I escaped maiming or certain death but his bike wasn’t quite so lucky. That was the beginning and the end of the motorcycle period of my life story. Not wanting to appear to Bob J. and Ray to be a sissy, in particular after my antics of the previous day when I had fallen through the bush and flown down the side of the hillside. So, the three wheeler it was, the three wheeler it would be. My instructions were simple. “Stay on the dirt road do not drive anywhere near the edge of the road. Do not, repeat do not, put your legs near the wheels while the vehicle is moving. Avoid deep ruts at all costs.” Um, “help”.

I hopped on the beast trying to look poised and confident. Bob J. got the machine running for me and explained the shifting situation. Sigh. Inside I had a feeling this was going to make yesterday’s freefall look mild in comparison. Gamely I inched forward. The snail creeping down the path next me was beating me by a mile. Bob J. and Ray were putting a lot of real estate between us as I chugged along at about 1/4 mile an hour. Finally they stopped and Bob J. jogged back to where I was to check on me. Explaining they had hoped to get to the field sometime before sunset, I was instructed to pick up the pace a bit. Okie. The avoiding the ruts portion of the instruction didn’t make it easy going. Since it was a dirt road there were both rocks and ruts at nearly every juncture. Once again my spine was inching up towards my brain. Bob stuck his hand out the tractor to indicate he was going to stop. I did the same lowering my foot to the ground before coming to a complete stop. Don’t try this at home. Doing specifically what I’d been told not to do my leg hit the back wheel taking off the top layer of skin on my calf. Oh-oh. At first I thought I’d just be quiet about it but since it was beginning to look as if I might need a tourniquet I thought I’d better turn myself in. Thankfully working with heavy machinery regularly they kept a fully equipped first aid kit on board for such occasions. Bob J.’s eyes if rolled any higher towards the heavens would have disappeared inside his head. Sorry.

Once I was doctored to they began the “dragging” procedure which was basically accomplished by a piece of equipment attached to the back of the tractor and, yes, dragged along behind it. Well named, yes? Most of the afternoon was spent tending to one pasture after another. Half the time I rode in the tractor with one or the other of the men and the rest of the time I was on the dreaded three wheeler with instructions once again to try and keep myself out of the ICU. Kay.

That evening after a delicious meal of the fresh fish Bob J., Bob P. and I had provided for the table, we sat outside in the lawn chairs until way beyond the time the sun had gone down for the day.  A fire pit had been filled with wood and a lovely crackling fire burned inside the circle. The girls, allowed to stay up a bit late, were dancing in the flickering light. In the tall grass fireflies made what I was told was a very unusual showing making it a very magical evening.

Sleep, I have to say, came easily during those days. You worked hard, you played hard, then you slept hard. Wish I could put the sleeping hard part into action these days. Particularly since the pandemic my dream state is filled with vivid weird dreams and interrupted nights.

Day six on the downhill slope of my trip comes next. See you then. Stay safe.

 

 

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