My life has been a remarkable one in every sense of the word. I have seen and done things in my time that very few young women have had the opportunity to experience. This has been possible because of my heritage of farm-life. I have dealt with cattle, from every angle—in front, above, below, and behind—and in all things managed to come through at worst with a few bruises and a good story. The worst injury I’ve ever sustained occurred with the advent of my first orphan calf, Daphnie by name; she was in the habit of sucking my fingers by way of substitute for the bottle, and my unfortunate finger wandered too far back in her mouth—into her molars, as a matter of fact. It is perhaps not general knowledge that while a cow lacks top teeth in the front of her mouth, she possesses a fine set of top and bottom teeth back toward her throat. It was in these molars that my mishap occured. I bled profusely, but healed rapidly enough. Daphnie was also the calf that trod upon my foot one day as I frolicked with her in the great outdoors. She was a sweetheart, but she did cost me several injuries.
Another of my more interesting memories includes the time I reached a turning point in my perspective on cattle germs in general. I used to be rather squeamish and fastidious about manure, etc. But that all changed on one eventful day. One of our cows had just delivered twins, and their umbilical cords had been torn off too close to their bellies. They were bleeding, not at an alarming rate, but still bleeding. My brother and I, humanitarian to the point of self-sacrifice, each grimly took up our posts by their sides to hold the umbilical cords in pieces of gauze and quench the bleeding. The barn floor was swimming in muck, composed chiefly of manure, a little blood, and a large proportion of amniotic fluid from their anxious mother—who hovered between the two, licking at random and sometimes accidentally swiping me with her sandpaper tongue. I was in a recumbent position upon my side, stretched full-length in the pool on the floor, the contents of which I felt insinuating themselves slowly into my well-worn jeans. It was at this crucial moment that I knew I must face the facts or go mad altogether. I made up my mind; I resolved; I steeled myself to bear the ordeal, and bear it I did—I may say I acquitted myself with honors. I chose to remain there, calm and serene, exposed to all that the animal world could fling at me by way of noxious substances.
After that incident, my outlook changed. Fortified by my experience, I could withstand with tranquility the trials that awaited me in the way of animal feces. I pressed on calmly when a calf, only hours old, pooped into the gaping top of my rubber boot as I innocently stood by; I overcame my dislike of manure enough to thoroughly enjoy mucking out for both cattle and chickens; and I had no objection whatever to cleaning up after errant poultry that saw fit to pass samples of their stools upon my person whilst ensconced upon my shoulder. In fact, I so conquered all fears in this regard, that twice, when I saw a white something that might very well have been droppings begin to protrude from the backside of an unnerved hen, I put out my hand and caught the egg as it fell. It was a striking illustration, if I may permit myself to use the phrase, of the fresh-laid egg.
These are but a few of the stories I might tell; I do not allude to the cow with the volleyball-sized tumor sprouting from her face; I do not recount the several tales of the heifer who retained her placenta for weeks on end; my lips are sealed on the subject of scours and chapped udders. I do not divulge the story of the cow that could sit in a manner reminiscent of that of a dog and look as though she liked it; and I will not touch on the bovine midwifery that my father and brothers have learned over the years. These are stories for another time.