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Always wear boots

All has been rather quiet on the farm lately. Thankfully. Boring is good a lot of times. So rather than lull you to sleep by recounting our recent days, I found a story I wrote back in 2011. Things were much different then in regards to my cattle experience. But times were hard for farmers during that year (I hint at the drought at the end) and despite hard times farmers were a keepin’ on. Sound familiar? Hope this little tale gives you a chuckle today. 

My poor husband has such little help on the farm. Yes, he has me, but I am sometimes — let’s face it, most of the time — more of a liability than a help. Sometimes the little relief I can provide is worth the liability. (We decided early on in this little farm venture that my having life insurance was a must!)

On the Sunday morning he was loading a set of calves to transport to the sale barn, he came to the all-too-familiar junction where the task would be much easier with another body to help. That other body was me.

He called into the house, “I need you to come out here and help me load these calves.”

Me: “Really? I have to go to the restroom and I’m wearing flip flops!”

Husband: “It will just take a second — HURRY!”

I obeyed.

Running like the diligent farmhand that I am, I entered the cattle pen. It had around seven calves. I’m not talking cute, dog-like calves. These were pretty much cows — but I get into trouble for calling technical calves, cows. Thankfully, we have very mild, even-tempered animals (at least in the cow/calf category). But, these animals did not feel like getting onto a trailer. Understandably so.

He instructed his restroom-desiring, flip-flop-clad “farmhand” to: “Stand right here and don’t let them go by you.”

Me: “I want a weapon like you have.” (He had one of those paddle things to motivate cattle.)

Husband: “No, you’ll be all right, just DO NOT let them by you.”

By the way, at this point it had already taken WAY longer than he had promised and I was standing precariously between cow patties, nervous as all get out. Then he started to run them around the outer edges of the pen so they would accidentally end up on the trailer. I tried, without success, to swallow my knee-shaking fear because I worried they, like all the rest of the animals on the farm, could sense it.

All was going fairly well until the third guy rounded the bend. He was black with muscles and little horn buds book-ending the cute little hair tuft on his head. The look in his eye told me he had figured me out.

He saw right through me. Literally. I was the only thing standing between him and his freedom.

At the exact moment of his realization, time stood still. The next few moments all happened in slow motion.

His head was down. His legs were anxious with anticipation. I also realized what was happening, which caused me to freeze. I literally could not move. I could not yell. My arms hung limp at my side. My feet (and flip-flops) were stuck to the ground.

The stand-off felt like an eternity.

Thankfully, my husband broke my frozen trance: “Get out of the way!!!!” And I dove out of his way like my life depended on it, which, of course, it did.

The calf plowed over the space where I had stood, and he and the rest of the calves danced and galloped off in their sweet victory. I, on the other hand, emerged manure-covered and shaken to the core. I couldn’t escape the pen fast enough (plus, I STILL had to use the restroom)!

It felt like hours before the tremors of nerves left my body. I truly believe that was the closest I’ve come to dying.

Looking back on it the only positive thing about that Sunday was hearing my husband laugh — a full on, gut-shaking laugh. (The lack of rain had stifled laughs of farmers everywhere.)

I can’t say that I learned any great lesson on how I could have kept those calves from escaping, but I did learn something vital: Next time I’ll wear boots. Always wear boots.

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My name is Ginia Oehlschlager and I'm a small-town gal from Missouri. Join me as I document my crazy life on the farm with my husband and four kids. I'm always looking for frugal, simple ways to live the life God set before me. Where faith, family and fun come together on the farm.

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