Sunday, November 15, 2009

Morning Has Broken

6 am.

A nose peeks out of fleece sheets and wool blankets. It wiggles, sniffs, directs sensitive nose hairs in all directions, antennae. 25 degrees in the Fahrenheit, it concludes. 22, if you want to go dramatic. A glow around the dark wood blinds hint at snow.

Yes, the hippocampus recalls the snow ball fight last night. Then it remembers the cow in the barn, full of milk presumably.

The legs moan, drunk in relaxation. Not moving. For twenty minutes the brain and bones argue, scream, come to blows. Six AM is a violation of Saturday codes.

The longer it takes, the angrier the cow, the less milk she gives. And giving it is. She's learned to hunch her back and hold it in when she's mad. Saves it for the calf, almost as big as she is now, and whom she sometimes tries to nurse on herself.

Fine, then. The body gives in. It must. But today, things will be different.

The barn door is frozen shut. Milker's arms with new and surprising twin sunrises of biceps slam the metal door. Ice cracks off and the wall slides over. Snow has drifted in, onto the chicken water and the fly trap. Hendrika sways deep in her stall. Her eyes are watery and she looks like she's going to spew her cud. She's guilty and stricken. She'd whistle if she could. That overly casual tune announcing, "Nothin' unusual here. Just the same ol' same ol'."

But even morning eyes can see that's not true. Because she can't close the stall door behind her. It's still wide open. The hippocampus forgot she could do that if latches weren't checked.

An entire bale of alfalfa is strewn across the barn. With a cow, you don't feed the animal so much as the bacteria in their 40 gallon gut. A sudden food change creates a famine for one bacteria. But the guys needed for this new stuff have yet to get up to speed. Hence, the cow is left with no digesters for the time being. And 90 pounds of alfalfa filling her up.

Whatever she hasn't eaten is blanketed in a soft brown fleece of squirts.

"Yeah. right. You're saying you don't know anything about all this."

When the hand grasps the teets with a hot wash cloth, they feel wet already, warm, flaccid, empty. The mind reels. Sukey's already nursed this morning through the bars of her stall. The imagination boggles. Sukey burps softly, a milky burble. Her mother echoes, a rancid belch. Then a sigh.

There's no use miking. Of feeding either bovines. Neither was there a point to getting out of bed. After all that, the legs might have won just this once. Now they vote to go back. But the barn boots are on and the place seriously needs a mucking out.

Hendrika trots after the wheelbarrow. Sifts through the wreckage of her wild night, now topping the compost pile like a maraschino cherry. Her digestive tract is gaining ground again. And she's ready to send it all through once more.

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