Saturday, December 20, 2008

Being a Farmer's Daughter

I am a farmer's daughter. In fact, I'm a farmer granddaughter and great-granddaughter. I was raised on stories of how my father's family brought the first Arabians into Russia as the Tsar's horse trainer. Truth or fiction it strongly anchors my heritage as one of being involved with the land and with animals. To further cement my heritage, my maternal grandfather was a pioneer who brought the first rape seed (think canola) to Alberta.

The unfortunate bit is I'm a really bad farmer's daughter. I don't like icky things, I will squeal and jump if a mouse runs across my foot and I have an undeniable panic attack when a grasshopper climbs up into my pants. While these are farmer's daughter's flaws my greatest fall from grace is my fear of my father's cows. (I also have three brothers which means I didn't have to deal with the cows very often.)

Now understand, these cows are not normal cows, they are evil incarnate. These cows will happily chase you. They are spooky and wild-eyed. (For those of you in the cow know they are Limousin crosses.) Perhaps if my father was not in denial about the true nature of his cows and perhaps if my father fostered modern livestock handling skills my fear would never have developed.

Once while visiting a friend who raised and showed purebred Herefords I watched in shocked amazement as she walked out amongst her herd and patted cows here and there. I stood on the safe side of the fence and kept asking "Are you sure that's such a good idea?". Dee meanwhile had a good chuckle at my expense. My father's cows would have run through a fence.

While living in Consort (more cattle than people live there), I had the opportunity to "help" the cowboy I rode for. This would on occasion mean going out and helping round up cattle. These range animals were also not the friendliest of creatures. I have a clear memory of being sent to open a gate (they neglected to tell me the wire was hot), using my rein end to pull the wire apart so I didn't get zapped, and then hearing one of the guys yell, "Better get on your horse, they're coming your way!". Of course the mild panic I was experiencing didn't help me get the gate open any quicker and with my anxiety transferring to the horse I then had to mount a jigging dancing fool.

A few years ago my parents left on vacation, leaving me to take care of their animals. As it was October dad put out a bale of hay for the cattle, telling me to not let them in with it until at least the end of the month. As best laid plans go awry, we got snow in the middle of the month. A lot of snow. This meant no grass for the cows to eat. As they ate the bale down I began to worry. Calling my brother who lives 3.5 hours away I asked him who he knew that could help me.

My godsend was a guy named Stroh. Because the concept of using the tractor with a round bale on the front (it's an old school with no cab) scared the crap outta me - courtesy of a visit to my maternal grandfather's farm directly after someone had flipped their tractor and killed themselves - I needed someone to move the bales. I politely warned Stroh that I was a very poor farmer's daughter. I don't think he believed me until he saw me in action.

My job was to cut the binder twine after he dropped the bales into the feeders. Well, the cows were good and hungry and proceeded to swarm the bales. This sent me clambering up the bale feeder putting me safely out of bunting range on the bale. Stroh of course calmly walked over and began cutting strings. It was with mild embarrassment that I carefully climbed down and made my way to the safety of the fence. While my reaction may have been over the top, I have been hunted down by these cows and it's left a sour taste. (While I was still in college one of the cows cornered me in the hay shed, I would still be there if my rope horse hadn't come in and kicked the crap out of the cow, ears pinned letting me exit.)

Stroh even offered to teach me how to drive the tractor, you can imagine his surprise when I told him I knew how, I just would rather not. I did warn that I'm not a good farmer's daughter.

Cow saga to be continued...

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