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Archive for the ‘It’s Like a Farmers’ Almanac or Somethin’’ Category

     You would have sworn she was part mule half the time, contrary and stubborn, in a sense emulating human nature. But indeed, Beulah was our milk cow and a right fair producer. I suppose I might be a bit indignant too if someone squeezed on my teats every morning at 6:30, and Beulah was, even if it did relieve some udder pressure.

     Well that bovine was on my assigned chore list every day as a boy. A rough job description, more or less, was to subdue the beast, emancipate the lactate without imperilment and deliver it to the house, all before preparation for school. Mother would pasteurize the milk that morning, eventually skim the cream after rising, and make butter as needed. I guess for continued task inspiration my Dad liked to say, “You see son, your light and momentary affliction works for you a far more exceeding weight of glory!” I supposed he meant the work ethic I was building mainly, but besides that, those cold glasses of fresh milk, and homemade butter on roastin’ ears were pretty glorious and tasty rewards for all the trouble. 

     Affliction probably did best describe many encounters from that milking routine…and Beulah was by no means light. She would try to move around while I tried to ease up to her with my milking stool and bucket. Large black snakes would make acquaintance in that lower part of the barn periodically making us both a little nervous, and all manner of flies were a constant nuisance. I tried to at least keep my side a no-fly zone to keep Beulah from lashing me with her tail.

     Just about the time I would get her settled, and into a milking rhythm, that cow would occasionally, for spite, move her back hoof right on top of my foot. She was by no means going to move then, and the weight of her hind quarter caused a goodly amount of instep distress. Did you ever try to get leverage to tip a cow while your foot is pinned to the ground and a bucket is between your legs while sitting on a milking stool? It’s what you call a predicament for a scrawny kid.

     Well, that wasn’t the only clever game that Beulah played. Sometimes she would lull me into a sense of pleasant cooperation and then when I would least expect it, she’d give a swift kick to my knee, and bucket, and nullify the fruits of my labor. I’d give her a menacing look, but she was not easily cowed. She could have even been in cahoots with the barn mousers that were quick to encroach and lap up the spoil.

     Yep, Beulah was strong-willed and had a mind of her own. Reminds me a tad bit of my neighbor Luke Samson’s younger boy who was headstrong and restless early on. He didn’t care much for the rigors of the farm, or rural life. Funny how kids are different. Luke’s older son was meek and at home in the pastoral milieu, diligent and not begrudging advice or direction.

     The story goes that, against wisdom, Luke staked the impatient younger son with his portion of a future inheritance thinking maybe the recalcitrant young man might just have a different calling. Not long after that, they say this free spirit gathered up all that he had and journeyed far from the heartland to pursue his ideal. With a desire to do as he pleased, and without his father’s guidance, the wayward son soon wasted all that he had been given on imprudent business ventures and profligate living. About the time his inheritance ran out, there was a recession in the region leaving him with no means of sustenance. He became very hungry and ironically, because of his farming upbringing, he persuaded a local hog operation to hire him to feed swine. Even the swill he was feeding the pigs looked good to him, although it could not satisfy his hunger.

     Well, I recall that the insightful publication Willa Mae loaned me a while ago (it’s like a farmers’ almanac or somethin’) had a noteworthy saying in it that may be useful advice for any reader, but particularly may have been so for neighbor Luke’s willful upstart.  “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (or, a less than desirable existence).  Now that sounds pretty harsh but as I pondered on that editorial at the time, it occurred to me that if this passage had any basis, then there must also be a path before each person that leads to a more promising life. However, since the primrose path seems right to a person, one therefore might at least consider the option of following antithetically that which is counterintuitive, or contrary to intuitive belief and common sense expectation. Confusing, ain’t it.

     It was so for the swine feeder. He had hit rock bottom through unwise choices and that jolt clarified his sight. When he came to himself, he realized that back in the heartland, even his father’s hired hands had food enough to spare and here he was dying of hunger. He knew he wasn’t worthy to be called a son again, having lost his inheritance, but he hoped his father would at least take him on as a hired man.

     Now I’ve known Luke for quite some time. He has shown a lot of brotherly kindness to folks around these parts, and he is certainly a merciful father. He was telling me the rest of the story at the feast held over at his farm, now weeks ago. Best mountain oysters I’ve had. Seems he saw his younger son coming home from still a ways off. He was filled with love and compassion and ran to the boy and embraced him, eventually restoring everything the son had before.

     I told him I wasn’t sure if I would have acted in as gracious a manner. He said that he thought I would in the same situation. It was like one son had been dead, but had then returned to life. I can surely relate to that joy. Something very valuable had been lost, but now was found. We celebrated ‘til the cows came home.

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