Notes: This is a true story…well, it’s based on one. This event happened between my father and I while working on the dairy. I couldn’t help but think of putting it on paper because it’s one of my favorites.
This has not been beta-ed…all the mistakes are mine and I carry them proudly!
Send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ezra tossed his book bag onto the kitchen table and reached for the refrigerator door. He was hungry and needed a snack…school always did that to him. JD and Vin were still at Nathan and Buck’s baseball game, Josiah was coaching…it was the first of the season and nobody wanted to miss it. Except Chris who was stuck doing chores.
It wasn’t a boys’ home exactly, but at times it felt like one…like today. Judge Orin Travis and his wife Evie had taken part in the foster care system and as a result now cared for seven young men…well, boys growing into men. Josiah had been their first and when the youngster arrived at their door they were hooked and they were proud parents. All of their hopes and dreams were complete…that was until Chris Larabee had needed a temporary home to stay in. That temporary home ended up being permanent. Orin and Evie had only anticipated two kids at the most…that was until Buck Wilmington and his big brown eyes looked up at Evie, or until Nathan Jackson’s generous and kind nature had wrapped its way around Orin’s heart. And then there was Vin, the quiet, soft spoken, and bashful youngster seemed to embrace everything that the Travis’ wanted…and lastly there was JD…who was supposed to have the been the last child to find a home at Shadylawn Farm.
When Orin was approached by the Children’s’ Welfare Department in regards to young Ezra Standish…he couldn’t say no, neither could Evie. So, their family was complete.
Ezra looked out the window and saw Chris quickly approaching. His green coveralls and Aspen Feed and Seed baseball cap, stuck out like a sore thumb on the speckled gravel. The screen door squeaked on its hinges and the front door pushed opened. Chris stood like a stone in the entryway.
“I need some help,” he said, not offering it as a question. “It’ll only take a minute.”
Ezra sighed, nothing on a farm took a minute…in a matter of fact, stating that something did actually take a minute was like walking under a ladder and then stepping on the tail of a black cat…it just didn’t happen. And don’t forget breaking the mirror.
“I’m having trouble moving one of the springer heifers over with the cows…want to move her before she calves.”
“Where’s Mr. Travis?” Ezra asked, not wanting to muck around in cow shit.
“He’s at the game with the others… It’ll only take a minute,” Chris said, heading out the door.
“Can I at least change first?”
“Just slip on your boots.”
Ezra sighed and slipped on his jacket. Carefully, he pulled his rubber boots on, making sure his pant legs were neatly tucked inside…he didn’t want to get too dirty.
It was the time of year when things were just beginning to thaw from the cold winter. The ground was still hard and snow still rested untouched on haystacks and shed roofs. Though the cows had fresh straw and sawdust to sleep in, manure piles were still abundant. Chunks of cow manure lay frozen in puddles of green soup.
This was not Ezra’s idea of fun.
Chris opened the gate and easily separated the heifer that was about to calve into the bullpen; from there she’d enter the dry cow pen…that was the plan. She seemed skittish as she ran around the large corral trying to find an escape route. Manure flew upwards and splattered as her large feet pounded between frozen manure and puddles of slop.
Chris opened the gate to the dry cow pen, thinking that this simple exchange would go as planned.
That was his first mistake.
“Help me get her across then you can go back inside and change,” Chris said, pointing to the spot where Ezra should stand.
“A little late for that, isn’t it?” came the sarcastic reply. Ezra moved away from the wood panels of the corral and carefully made his way across the ground. His feet slipped on the icy cow pies and manure splattered upwards when he tried to over correct himself to keep from falling. So much for his clean pants.
Ezra stood there, flapping his arms, feeling like a stationary bird…perhaps a vulture: large, awkward, ugly…odd.
Chris chased the heifer around the corral several times. She’d see the open gate and dodge in the opposite direction. Ezra stood in his position, flapping his arms like a wounded bird while Chris ran back and forth like a baby chick that didn’t know which way to turn.
Chunks of manure and ice would fly and break apart. The sludge that was in the process of melting splattered upwards, marking Chris’ legs, the heifer’s belly, and the wood panels.
“Damn it, Ezra!” Chris snapped, “MOVE!”
“Where?” came the quipped response.
Ezra sighed and moved closer to the fence, thinking it would help divert the heifer’s attention. He watched as she followed the far fence-line toward the opening, Chris following a safe distance behind.
It happed as though time was moving a million times slower than usual. Ezra watched as the heifer balked at the gate, she turned, spinning on her haunches. Chris moved to follow but his foot got caught.
Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa…he fell.
Silence fell upon the land and everything froze.
Ezra’s eyes became the size of silver dollars and his body became solid as if it were made from stone. Chris lay in the manure…face down.
“Uh, oh,” were the only words the youngster could utter. He knew without a doubt that they’d be eating beef for a long time: hamburger, steaks, roasts…maybe even jerky. And this heifer wouldn’t die easily… No, she die painfully, and slowly. Chris had a temper that he hid most of the time…but it would appear like white on black today.
Chris wouldn’t tolerate it. Ezra knew that as soon as Chris picked his head up out of that manure pile…bovine heads would roll.
Slowly, Chris pried his arms up out of the cold, green, soupy, mess he was now covered in and pushed himself up. He looked up and met Ezra’s eyes, and the youngster couldn’t contain himself. He knew if he started laughing he’d get killed, or worse, thrown in the manure pile…but he couldn’t help it. His lips spread apart and his eyes squeezed shut and all hell broke loose. He laughed like he’d never laughed before as he watched Chris get to his feet.
Manure clung to the tall lean form like nuts to chocolate. Cow shit was everywhere, in his ears, eyes, nose, down his shirt collar, in his pockets. Chris stood there, unsure of what to do with his arms spread wide, as though he was afraid to touch himself. He was a mess.
Then without warning…
Slowly, he started wiping the greenish black cow manure from his face, all the while shaking his head in laughter. He looked up at Ezra and smiled, his white teeth shinning bright beneath the hue of green goop.
“As a brother…” Chris looked up and met Ezra’s eyes… “There’s somethin’ I never do enough of…” An evil grin appeared on his face and he slowly made his way closer to his younger brother. “How about a hug?”
Ezra stopped laughing and bolted from the pen as though he’d grown a tail that was at risk of being amputated.
Chris laughed even harder and he exited the corral and walked slowly to the milking parlor. “Ezra!” he called. “I need you to hose me down…Ma’ll kill me if I walk in the house like this.”
Ezra stopped in the middle of feed way and raised an eyebrow… He could do that.
Besides, it might be fun.