The cold snap continues.

Due to the windchill yesterday I kept all the animals in the barn. The young steers and bull have cabin fever and are caroming off the walls.

I turned the cattle out at evening chores while I mucked stalls. They always head first for the steaming water trough. Though they have water in their stalls, generally it has frozen solid, or in the case of the boys, they’ve played with their bucket so roughly that it has dumped.


After drinking, it’s time to play.


My camera was too cold to take quick shots.


Cattle play requires shoving, feinting with the head, bucking, and kicking up one’s heels.


The boys worked out their restless energy and by the time I called them in, they were cold and happy to come.


Normally I would have put a half bale of hay outside for them to munch on while they waited for clean stalls, but yesterday I was out of hay. Yes, Rick the hay man had not shown up. I had emailed him for days, with no response. I had been a bale short at breakfast and had doled out what little I had sparingly. For ruminants, hay in their bellies fuels their furnace. At -52° windchill, it was not the day to run out of hay.

But with only a few hours of sleep, I was too tired to be furious. I had to keep plodding. I had four classes to teach. (Moments before I arrived at school, a frozen pipe burst and flooded my classroom. I held my classes in the library, with children taking notes on their laps.)

After work I jump-started my truck and borrowed three bales of hay from the school. Mike, the school farmer, was patient. “Drunken hay guy didn’t come?” Rick’s unreliability has been a longstanding problem, though it’s been about a year since he actually let me run out. Usually it’s a case of delaying until I’m down to two or three bales, and then swooping in with a breezy smile. “You ain’t never got to worry, honey!” In frustration I have looked into other hay suppliers but others either charge twice as much or already have their limit of customers.

It was 6 PM and I was almost finished with chores when I heard the rumble of Rick’s old pickup pulling up to the barn. He didn’t bother to apologize, of course. He was full of his usual bluster and dirty jokes. He confided jovially to the friend with him, “I love to see her blush!”

I’m tired of the weather and the struggle. However, I remember my friends who have lost their loving, gentle husband and father and I know my problems are miniscule.


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