Hard Time Marrying Part 3

farm-wagonBy the time Joe pulled his mules to the door to unload his wagon, it was sleeting.  His life had never looked more hopeless as he brushed the icy hay from the tattered quilt covering the children’s burning faces.  Though it was unchristian, he’d half-hoped to find them already dead from the fever, solving the problem of their care.

He struggled to get them into the cold cabin where he heard the scurrying of a rat.  “Damn it all.  I got to bring the barn cat in.”

Laying them gently on his bed and covering them, he was able to rouse each enough to get a bit of water down.  Setting the cup to the side, he moved on to the fireplace to uncover the banked ashes, put a stick or two next to the backlog, rekindling the fire.  At least they wouldn’t die of thirst of cold.  It angered him to feel pity for them. That’s all he could do for them for the moment.

He hurried in with the provisions, the pathetic mercy the town had shown, leaving to get his horses tended, milk the cow and tend the stock.  Finishing his tasks, he miserably returned to the burden of the sick children fate had forced upon him.  Upon entering the cabin, the sight meeting his eyes nearly undid him.  A filthy, battered woman dressed in rags studied the little girl.  God in Heaven!  Would this nightmare never end? Had he buried the woman alive and now she’d scratched out of her grave?

Mutely, the woman clutched the child to her bosom protectively as though she thought he might put the two of them back in the grave.

“Oh my God.  I thought you were dead!”  This did nothing to set her at her ease.  Shamed, he turned his back mumbling.  “Poor wretch.  What she must be thinking?” Shame at having buried her, then trying to get rid of her sick children shamed him, bringing him lower than he’d ever been before.  I don’t know why I didn’t leave it alone when it was good enough.  He fled from the cabin and made his way to the barn, tossed some hay on a saddle blanket settled in to try to get some sleep.  Jack, his dog, and the barn cats settled in next to him, glad of the unexpected company.  He lay awake a long time, thinking of the girl who’d made him want a wife in the first place.

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The Great Cow Hoist

image

The above picture is not me. I would never have smiled while I milked.

There has been an ongoing argument between Connie and Marilyn for years. At the risk of alienating one of my sisters, as a true witness, I feel obligated to set the record straight. Mother was there as well, but everyone knows how ditzy she is. Additionally, she tries to be impartial, so she sees the story both ways, depending on which sister is putting the most pressure on her at the time.

To begin with, milking the cow was the most universally hated job in the household, palmed off on whichever God-forsaken soul who had the least excuses and broke first. Of course, neither Daddy nor my brother could milk. It was a Biblical injunction, book, chapter, and verse known to Daddy alone. “Thou canst not take milk if thee cannot give it.” I never heard this verse quoted by another and seriously doubted its existence, but if it was good enough for Daddy, by golly, the lowly women in the family were stuck with it.

Mother was stuck with milking in the morning on school days due to the amount of time involved in de-manuring required before school. As much as she hated milking, she didn’t want to get notes from school, “Your daughter comes in reeking of cow s__t!”

There was no salvation for us on evenings, weekends and holidays. “I’ve milked all week. Now it’s your turn!” Eventually, Phyllis and I fought it out. I grudgingly took mornings since I got up earlier and preferred to get the evil deed over with. She took evenings. It was horrible! First of all, milking involved wading manure and mud to lure the cow to the least manure slopped area. We never had a milking shed with fancy mangers to fasten the cow’s head in while they eat their grain. I suspect there was no Biblical injunction preventing construction of a milk shed or manger, just unconcern on Daddy’s part, since he didn’t have to worry about getting hooked or the weather while milking. Milking, standing in mud and manure, with freezing rain running down my collar was my personal favorite. I feel sure all that rain that ran off the cow’s back must have greatly improved the purity of the milk.

To the best of my recollection, I never milked a constipated cow. Invariably, Bessie or Star would feel the urge as soon as I got started. In the event she was a little slow getting started, I could always content myself with being slapped with a tail caked with dried manure left from the last episode. Just so you know, personal hygiene is not high on a cow’s list of priorities. The milker could count on several solid tail slaps while milking, in addition to being stepped on if one is not good at following the cow’s lead.

Enough bragging. On the day of the Great Cow Hoisting, there was no milking involved. Mother had dragged me out to help her separate the cow and new calf who had escaped his pen to join his mother in the pasture. For your edification, I’ll explain. The cow and calf had to be separated all day to keep him from stripping her of all the milk that he felt was rightfully his. He got to spend a few minutes with her twice a day to nurse after milking, when the milk from one udder was saved for him. Afterwards, the cow turned out to pasture leaving the calf penned up.

Connie and Marilyn were standing nearby. As the cow ambled by, she turned her head to the side, hooking Connie’s shorts. Surprised to find herself burdened with a little girl, she lowered her gently back to the ground, setting her on her feet.

Five Photos, Five Stories/Hard Time Marrying(Part 3)

wagon in barn

By the time Joe pulled his mules to the door to unload his wagon, it was sleeting.  His life had never looked more hopeless as he brushed the icy hay from the tattered quilt covering the children’s burning faces.  Though it was unchristian, he’d half-hoped to find them already dead from the fever, solving his problem of how to care for them.  He struggled to get them into the cold cabin.  Laying them gently on his bed and covering them, he was able to rouse each enough to get a bit of water down.  Setting the cup to the side, he moved on the fireplace to uncover the banked ashes, put a stick or two next to the backlog, rekindling the fire.  At least they wouldn’t die of thirst of cold.  That’s all he could do for them for the moment.

He hurried in with the provisions, the pathetic mercy the town had shown, leaving to get his horses tended.  Rushing through his tasks, he miserably returned to the burden of the sick children fate had forced upon him.  Upon entering the cabin, sight meeting his eyes  nearly undid him.  A filthy, battered woman dressed in rags was cradling the little girl, tenderly spooning her milk , catching droplets and spooning them back.  God in Heaven!  Would this nightmare never end? Had he buried the woman alive and now she’d crawled out of the grave?