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Empty nest allows farm couple to revisit past activity together

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012, at 12:17 PM

It's a rare occasion at our house, even as empty nesters, but this particular Saturday morning hubby and I realized one son was away at college, while the other son, now farming, had gone back to college, at least for the weekend.

So that's when I heard it.

"Honey, I know what we can do today."

Of course, my heart skipped a beat. Romantic day of shopping in the city, candlelight dinner ...

But before I could speak again:

"We need to wean the calves and put them into the other pasture," I heard him say.

Today? Can't it wait until a son or two are home?

Apparently not.

It wasn't like we haven't sorted cows by ourselves before. In fact, we had done it many times, before our children were born and were old enough to help.

I remember bravely throwing my young body in front of our bovine beauties many times. When I first started helping, I always thought the art of moving cows was much like setting a pick in basketball. Stand your body in the right place and the cows (or opposing teams) would go the other way everytime.

However, it had been 12 or more years since I had to do that job alone. As my children had grown, I found more and more they placed their bodies in front of mine to move the cows, trying to protect me. Obviously, I had grown soft in more ways than one.

I made this realization about the same time I became convinced cows in the 21st century are much faster than cows were back in the 1980s and 1990s.

The first test was old No. 34, who, as it turned out, didn't like the idea of separating from her baby. She balked at going out the gate, just as I was trying to close it. Before I could get it closed, the gate and No. 34, were on top of me. Turns out being soft and fluffy helps when it comes to bone breakage.

I also realized hubby and I no longer communicate the same way. With the deafening sound of cows and calves bawling, and both of us on opposite sides of the cow lot, we were reduced to sign language.

His slight nod, apparently meant to let No. 22 run through. Just as I turned her around, proud of my efforts to keep her from running towards him, I realized I had made a mistake. Ironically, stomping in the mud, throwing hands up in the air and rolling eyes, is language I can understand.

Then, of course, even when I could hear hubby, we had language barriers.

"I need you to get No. 72," I heard him say.

"Which one is that," I yelled back over the deafening din of cow talk.

"The black one," he said, as I saw a sea of black cow hind parts in front of me.

"That narrows it down," I mumbled under my breath, determined to refrain from sign language of my own.

Now my dilemma was clear. The tags are in the front of the cow, and all I could see were black tails in front of me.

I moved towards the front, hoping to find No. 72. Instead I sent 30 more black cows (and No. 72) the wrong way.

Look out hubby, here they come -- fast.


After another hour of sign language, a lifetime worth of unwashable stains on my coveralls and a newfound appreciation for our children, we finally accomplished our task.

"Now, could you help me a few minutes in the shop?," I heard him ask.

"Sure, sure," I mumbled, too tired to argue.

But tomorrow I'm making our "home alone" plans ... staying in bed, watching tv and moving as little as possible.

Which is good, considering everytime I move -- something hurts.

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Another great story Marcia. In my humble opinion you have become a more accomplished writer during the time I have been reading your work. I hasten to add that you have been entertaining since day one.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, Mar 6, 2012, at 8:26 PM

This reminded me of a time when I was maybe 10 and my dad said stand here and hold this gate. Don't move. I stood there as a group of steers came running. They hit the gate, knocked it over on top of me and ran out of the pen. I remember my dad leaning over asking if I was ok and me saying proudly " I didn't move.". I don't know how but there were nobroken bones only bruises. Good stuff!

-- Posted by meagain on Thu, Mar 1, 2012, at 3:19 PM

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