“Pa!” a tow-headed youth exploded through the screen door. “Cows got out ‘gain.”
Draining his cup, he stood up, adjusting his suspenders. “Git yer brothers. Have Jake warm up the truck an’ hitch up the trailer.”
“Ma, looks like ‘nother long day.” He glanced out the window. “Might wanna get the warsh off the line. Don’t need them cows snackin’ on my trousers again.”
Ma smiled, brushing flour off her apron, rounded by a swollen belly. “Now, don’t you fret none. The girls and I will handle things here.”
”I know ya will. Ya always do.” He kissed her on the cheek and snatched his John Deere hat off the peg by the door.
He rounded the corner and saw his sons piling into the back of the old pea-green truck. He climbed in, “Jake, did ya see which way they went?”
”Yes, sir, they headed toward Zeke’s place.”
“Fig’ers,” Pa sighed. “He’s got some of the best grazin’ land around, not ta mention some mighty temptin’ corn fields.”
The truck stuttered and groaned as the boy put it into gear. Before long, they caught up with the wayward bovine.
”Pa, looks like only four this time.”
”Well, git at it. One fer each of ya. I’ll keep ‘em in the trailer.”
Pa smiled. “Cut ‘em off, don’t chase ‘em!” Even young Toby was getting better at rounding them up; they’d been getting enough practice lately.
Pa looked past the truck to see Matty take a dive for one of the cows and land face first in the gift she’d left him mere moments before. “You’re not ridin’ home in the truck. Git up and keep agoin’.”
The boy swiped at the muck all over his face, sputtering. “Yes, Pa.”
Pa lowered the ramp as Caleb brought the first cow back. “Go help yer brothers.”
After a few more near misses, the cows were loaded and the boys were filthy. “Git on home and clean up before yer Ma sees ya. I’ll take care of these ladies.”
A chorus of yes, sir’s rang out as the boys raced off down the path the cows had made through the field.
Pa whistled to himself as he drove back down the dirt road. As he neared the gate to the pasture, he saw someone standing near it. He let the truck grind to a halt. “Can I help ya?” he asked the stranger.
“Well, I’d like to help you, if I could, sir.” He smiled, showing way more teeth than Pa had.
“An’ how might ya help me?” Pa began leading the cows back to the pasture.
”I hear you’ve been having trouble with your fine cattle getting lose.”
Pa closed the gate behind the last of the cows. “Ayup. Shore ‘nuff have. Ya gonna help us catch ‘em next time?”
“Oh, no, sir. What I propose is an electric fence.” He held up a length of wire with white discs on it. “You run this around your pasture, and with the flip of a switch, the whole fence has electric current running along it. The cows will stay put, and you won’t have to waste all that time chasing them.”
”No, thank, ya. Our barbed wire’s worked fine all this time, ‘cept when someone opens the gate.” Pa’s eyes narrowed as he watched the man. “Ol’ Zeke told me about you showin’ up at his place about a month ago, after he’d had some cows get out.” Pa looked over the man’s shoulder, causing the man to look behind him.
Jake, Matty, Caleb, and Toby were behind the stranger, and Zeke leading a bull. Zeke smiled, “Here ya go, thought ya might wanna borrow my bull for a few days.”
“Now, ifin’ ya’ don’t mind...” Pa opened the gate, letting Zeke set the bull lose in the pasture.
Matty gave the stranger a firm slap on the shoulder, hands still covered in muck. “Ya have a good day, now.”
The boys jogged off to the house, and Pa turned and grinned, whistling as he watched his boys wash off at the pump.
“Pa!” Three girls with corn silk hair came squealing out the door to meet him.
He gave each of them a kiss on top of their heads, leaning down a little further with each one. The smallest clung to his leg as he tried to walk into the house.
“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
they shall not be ashamed,
but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
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