Monday, February 23, 2015

The Long Goodbye To Misty And The 12: The Farm (Chapter 4)

I didn't grow up on a farm, and farms have always been somewhat foreign lands to me. My cousins had a grandfather who had a farm near Dunrobin, but I don't have many memories of being around animals. They mostly revolve around causing trouble among hay bales and riding a tractor.

For the past week, I lived on a real, working farm in Oxford Mills. Every morning, in the blustery, brutal cold, I had to stretch a 60ish ft long length of hose from the barn and attach it to the tap on the side of the house, and provide water for 12 cows and one horse. Unfortunately, deep February face-fuck cold weather doesn't care much for water - and so each day, I needed to unthaw the tap first with some warm water. The thread of the hose was also usually a bit frozen, so that needed to be dipped in the warm water too, before being screwed to the tap. Once the liquid gold started flowing, I needed to double back to the barn and put the gushing hose through a wall into two blue barrels for the animals.

That's when Misty would show up - right on cue.

Misty, the very beautiful but very assertive and pesky horse, would always drink first. If any cows wandered up to try and get a taste while she was there, she would have none of it. She would bray them away or even slightly head butt their hind ends, making the cows take off in fear. After a few days, she let me pet her mane as she drank, but I wouldn't do it long. I kept a healthy fear of Misty and I think she saw that. Once she finally decided she was done, she would clip clop away to the hay bales and let the cattle have their turn. This is where shit would get wild. 12 cows don't understand that two drinking barrels need to be used in a wait-your-turn type system. For them, their minds solemnly say '12 of us all bucking for two barrels? What could possibly go wrong? Seems perfectly mathematically sound!'

The hell, you say.

A rampage would ensue, and I would make sure to get out of the way of the chaos before it got nutty. With various moos and snorts and head butts, these cows would literally get three heads into each barrel at a time, almost getting their big-eyed noggins stuck. It was almost like a mosh pit of beef - they would buck into each other for pole position, sometimes thrashing their heads or bodies up against the outside of the barn, sending a thunderous rattle across the doors. Many times, I had to shoot some hose water on to the ground just to quell the madness, as they would start sucking the groundwater fiercely off the ice and snow and mud and take any dregs they got. I've never seen water get hoovered so quickly. It was like God's wet-vac. Gone in a few short minutes.

After a while, I grew to love the chaos - watching the different personalities of the different cattle pop in and out the social atmosphere. It was like 12 drunk dudes fighting for the attention of one girl. As I'd finish filling, and they'd finish drinking seconds after, I'd hear them moo their disapproval of the fluid's end as I walked away.

For that brief half-hour to hour span each day, I gathered a glimpse into something simple - and yet something extremely complex at the same time. The city was a small fleck in my mind, and I didn't worry about job security or a pension plan. I breathed in the manure air, and I saw the community of animals work together for a greater good. The cycle of it. I didn't need to be anywhere else.

I only did one sliver of farmwork for one week, and yet, it made me appreciate the people that do this for a living every day.

I'll hope to see them all again soon.

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