Lost and found
I came out of the milk-house wearing a old coat with strips of bright red material pinned (with big, yellow ducky diaper pins) to the hand-me-down, mismatched buttoned coat. The red is to protect me from deer hunters should I get out near the big woods. Around my head is a babushka made of clean, white, cotton diapers, placed there by an Aunt as protection from barn smell permeating freshly washed hair. Covering most of my patched, old cousin boy jeans are a pair of too big muck boots that require three pairs fat socks to fill. On my hands are a pair of mismatched cotton gloves with a few burrs stuck to them.
It's cold and I can see my breath. The barnyard dung is covered in a thin veil of frost, soon to be steaming as the cows milked will be stepping out into the morning.
I am anxious to be done with chores. I want to call my horse up from the pasture and go for a ride. Aunt Janet calls out one last task. Chicken coop. Facing the mean rooster is no easy task and I am groaning. I look around and don't see him nor have I heard his obnoxious crow for awhile. Thinking the coast is clear I open the coop door only to have Rambo rooster come charging and squawking towards me from the yard above the coop. Grabbing a stick I wave it in his general direction in hopes of hitting him. I shimmy in the coop and slam the rattle trap door with the hens all in a panic and me out of breath, back against the door, stick in hand, shaking in terror. Every morning it was the same thing. Rambo rooster thinks I'm going to harm his sweet harem and he must attack the rag tag hen killer. Grandma taught me to sing to the hens to calm them down, so I sing what she sings, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy...) The hens quiet down enough for me to steal their unborn babies. My last task of the morning before I can ride is to get out of the hen house, up to the farmhouse, without a rooster attack or breaking an egg. I'd take a rooster attack over breaking an egg. Big Grandma doesn't like broken eggs and I never liked Big Grandma yelling at me in German.
To get Smokey up from pasture required making three sounds. One is the sound of a tin pail being filled with oats, the second is hitting a corn cob on a wooden fence post and the third was a whistle. By the time I would whistle I could see him in the distance. The old tact slung over the fence and me sitting waiting with stolen sugar cubes. A tradition for us.
This morning Smokey was full of *****. He was coming up to the yard doing all sorts of crazy things. Biting his tale, stopping and starting, going in circles and then stopping at staring at me. This morning I couldn't get him to come near me. Smoke loved to ride. He should be galloping towards me not playing. I took the bridle, jumped off the fence and walked to where he was. As I took a step towards him he would back up. I cooed to Smoke, he held his head down and wouldn't look at me. At that moment I could feel Smoke's sadness and pain. I knew something was wrong. I got closer and saw his mouth was all foam. I knew. I ran with tears stinging in my eyes, desperate to not cry my body felt heavy and weak. I needed my Dad. I found him in the mound and told him about Smokey. I remember my Dad standing there spotlighted by slats of dusty sun that seeped it's light through the cracks. He bent his head down, took off his cap and rubbed his neck like there was paint on it he wanted to get off. I was holding my breath. Looking me straight in the eyes he said "Nancy go up ta the house and getta gun and two bullets from Big Grandma and bring it back here." "Whats a matter with Smokey Dad?" No answer, just a stern git. I ran as fast as I could. I thought maybe a coyote, wolf or a bear might have hurt Smokey and Dad was going out to shoot it. Big Grandma gave me a gun and bullets and as I was turning to run out of her safe, warm kitchen she grabbed my chin, tucked the loose hairs back into the diaper babushka and told me to be a brave little girl.
I ran down the little gravel hill to the barn and there stood two of my Uncles, my Dad, my Brother and a few younger Cousins. Turning around I could see my Aunt and Big Grandma at the end of the house yard. Everyone was quiet.
The sun went under a dark cloud and a light snow began to fall. I handed my Dad the gun. As he loaded it he told me Smokey was real sick and he could get all the animals sick. So just like a sick cow, Smokey had to be put down. My insides shook. My throat felt like I had swallowed Smokey's morning oats. I knew. I wanted to give Smokey his last sugar cubes but my Dad said I couldn't get close. Dad told me to head up to the house. As I walked toward my Aunt and Grandma I heard the shot. My feet felt like lead and my eyes burned. I wanted to scream. Instead I ran and buried my body into Big Grandma's soft, sturdy fr
I never really rode again. I still love to be in the kitchen.