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Sunday, December 29, 2013


jenny in her don't-come-near-me stance

Mid afternoon I took some "sweet grain" to the livestock. I thought I had it made putting it in a big plastic gallon container with handle and lid. I could carry it into the field without anybody smelling it. I thought I could carry it to a part of the field with less hoof prints and donkey mounds, pour some on the ground for each one. They all love the grain way out of bounds. Jenny came at me with her ears back, her neck beside me as I walked, her moving in on me pushing. She was walking in the way that says she's light on her feet and might start kick dancing at any time. She wanted the grain. At a certain point, delay was no longer possible. Before she took the container away from me, I poured some on the ground for her. What an explosion that little gesture set off. Suddenly a big roar like a bear, a rough roar that had a grunt in it, a big blow of wind like a Plains buffalo. It was the growl of something enormous. It had an urgency in it that said this is the last warning. Jack had walked up in a hurry, as crazy about the grain as Jenny is. Jenny let out this buffalo snort, swung her ass end around at me so fast it was there before I knew it. I stepped back to give her room. She nailed Jack with both back feet, a full body blow, while I watched, not two feet away. It wasn't a nudge. Jack danced back out of her range. She growled again, this time at me. I said, "C'mon Jack," and walked out of Jenny's range with Jack all over me trying to knock the container out of my hand. I poured some on the ground for him. He went at it, his ears back, his rear end moving toward me, jealous of his grain. He let out the same loud blow with grunt and growl in it as Jenny, sounding like a bear. I'd never heard them make that sound.
jack telling me with his ears and eye to stay back
The calves started getting anxious for some grain, both of them coming at me between Jenny and Jack. Big mistake. Jenny and Jack redirected them in a hurry with kicks and the  growl that says in no uncertain terms, get outa here. Both Jenny and Jack had their ears back and legs set to spring at any second. I took the calves to a place far enough from Jenny and Jack they might have some peace.The first one to me was rougher than Jenny and Jack wanting the grain. Not intentionally were they rough, but they don't have much coordination, both had been taken from their mothers way too early, didn't have time to learn anything from mama, so they amount to what appears to me an empty consciousness with no mental development but for each other and the donkeys that ignore them with complete indifference. They didn't give me time to pour two piles for them, so I dumped all that was left in a pile and moved away from them quickly. They're heavy. I even suspect one of them to be a retarded child because it was taken from mama too soon after being born. I haven't told you much about the calves because they are a heartbreak for me. They're charming and tremendously ignorant in relation to a donkey's intelligence. I feel sorrow for them every day. I'm letting a friend raise the calves in the meadow to sell them in February and make some money. Not much, gas money for a dually pickup. Minutes after I'd poured the grain for the calves, Jenny trotted over to them, nose forward, ears back, walked in between them, pushed them aside and ate from their pile. Jack went to Jenny's first pile and the calves went to Jack's.
the calves
Rural America has been in Depression since the year 2000. The mountain people have always lived in economic Depression, the reason the men buy and sell to make money. It's the only way you can make good money in the working class. Hunting is important. People have freezers where deer meat is kept through the year after hunting season. And new antler racks go up on the wall in the mancave. I don't hunt and don't kill anything by intent. I dodge wollyworms. Roadkill I often can't avoid, like when a possum darts under the back wheel. I'll stop for a squirrel running back and forth unable to decide which way to go. When a squirrel does that in front of me, I think of that crazy Ray Stevens song, The Day The Squirrel Went Berserk, a slap-stick country comedy song that's hilarious. The squirrels make me laugh. I let a friend hunt in my woods, which I've thought of as a minor sanctuary, because I understand his circumstances and want to help him out. As with the calves, I have two acres of meadow, so why not let a friend raise a couple of calves and make a little money. He works all the time and can do things I'm in awe of, like a drive a trailer with a donkey in it up the mountain with tight turns back and forth all the way up. I don't know that I've ever felt impressed by somebody's driving like I did that day riding up the mountain with Jesse hauling the trailer. It was a smooth ride for Jenny. These are good people, people I call my friends, and I want to help them as I'm able. We help each other back and forth as needed. It's rough on young mountain men with families they love with their whole hearts and want their babydolls to have a good life. If it weren't for a woman and the kids, a mountain man could live without need for much. But a mountain man needs family foremost. In my first full year in the mountains, 1978, a song was uber-popular on the country music charts, A Country Boy Will Survive. That's a truth. Mountain boys know they will survive.
People who buy and sell animals pay no attention to their consciousness or intelligence or awareness. You can't, really, when you have to regard them as stock. You don't go by what works with one particular animal, but with all of them, like swat one on the face with a stick and it will move. I went to a stockyard with Jesse and Justin when we were looking for a Bethlehem Cross mate for Jack. They know that world intimately. I hated it, couldn't stand it, but forced myself to, because I wanted to see what it was. I don't ever want to go back. They're not mean to the animals, they're just indifferent to their consciousness. I felt like I was in a slave market. The soundtrack was cattle crying. Like I'm unable know a person or an animal without wanting to know who is in there, get acquainted, somebody new to know. Therefore, I'm unable to interact with the calves very much. It would tear my heart out to turn over friends to the McBurger assembly line that amounts to continuing trauma from the time they leave the meadow in a trailer to the time they're killed. I can't do that. I live in a world where that is how it's done. This is how we raise food. Who wants to eat the meat of a retarded cow that never knew its mother? I don't want to eat the meat of even a healthy cow. But I do. I live in the world and this is what we do. I can't be one who proclaims vegetarianism. My first seven years in the mountains I worked as a caretaker of a farm with 23 beef cows. I reconciled myself with being a part of the McBurger assembly line, which I did not like participating in. I called it service to humanity by way of producing food. It's the nature of the world I live in, all the parts too deeply integrated for me to affect. I called the bull Big Mac.

Though the calves hurt my heart, they'd be kept someplace else if not here, so I am good to them, feed them carrots. There is a little bit of a problem there because the retarded one wants to eat my hand. My whole hand. It has a big mouth. Today I had to pop it on the forehead half a dozen times with the palm of my hand to stop it from pushing through the gate while I was trying to hook the gate. If I were to pop one of the donkeys like that, it would be ten feet away in a blink. The calf kept on coming back. Donkeys startle easy and spring into motion fast as a polo pony. I love to watch the donkeys run. They sometimes play chase, one chases for awhile, then the other chases awhile. I sometimes need to push the calves out of the way, though seldom the donkeys when I walk among them, except when I'm carrying grain. Jenny's first three weeks with Jack, I stayed out of the meadow. They were too unpredictable and I didn't know Jenny. Jack was in such a state Jenny was his mind, totally obsessed. I stayed away from him. Thought the best thing would be to let them get used to each other and settle the kick boxing as only they know how. I like about the donkeys that they still have the wild in them, a little bit. Jenny cutting her shine with me standing right there beside her showed me that I'm not afraid of her anymore. She was kicking at Jack, not me. When she starts, I make a yelp. I holler, "Cut it out, Jen!" and just step out of her way. No need to run or get scared. I had a few seconds of donkey mayhem up close and it didn't startle me. I knew she wasn't going after me. I simply needed to take a step or two out of their way. I like that I can walk through the meadow with a big powerful donkey beside me pushing me and I push back. It becomes fun like walking on a ship at sea after you get used to it. I saw myself today the old hillbilly farmer so familiar with his animals he's comfortable among them, even when they get antsy. It felt good.    

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