from sky to seed

That night when we forgot to feed the cows on time

During the rare weekend when our head cattle guy heads out of town, cow duties fall on Jon’s shoulders. It’s not exactly a chore he adores.

“All Robert wants to do is play with cows and bulldozers,” Jon likes to say, “And all I want to do is play with hay and tractors.” And just about every other piece of equipment—excavators, bobcats, toolcats, cultipackers—he can get his hands on.

In fact, Jon’s aversion to cattle care is so notorious that it’s a joke well-travelled through this county and the neighboring one. On Saturday morning, Jon placed a t-shirt printing order at our local shop and even the store-keeper was laughing at him. “You’re feeding the cows tonight? Oh lord, they’re going to starve!” he cried.

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So it was a pretty fun joke come true when Jon came flying up the drive just as the sun was setting on Saturday night with two hay rounds in the bed of the truck. He told me to bring some wine. He’d forgotten to feed the cows and it was going to take a while. We had a good laugh the whole bumpy drive out into the field.

A hydraulic lift is used to pick up the rounds and set them on the truck bed. The flatbed’s only big enough to hold two rounds–but as 1,000 pounds a piece, that’s pretty damn impressive. Some of what we feed is wrapped sileage but most of it is just hay that we keep stored in the barn.

The cows have 500 acres to graze and it’s been a mild winter. They aren’t hurting for dinner, but they love the sound of that truck barreling across the field. The second we crossed the cattle guard, every cow in sight made a beeline to the top of a hill where Robert usually unrolls the rounds for them.

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It’s funny to watch the cows, all of them, because they act a lot like little kids. All the rounds are exactly the same—smell the same, weigh the same, look the same—but as soon as Jon unrolled a new one, every cow pushed and jostled trying to get a bite of the newer, better stuff.

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Ideally, the cows eat all of it, but if they don’t, they lay in it once they’re full. Keeps them warm, I suppose.

Robert usually feeds the cows in broad daylight, if you didn’t catch that. I always know he’s on his way because the feed truck is so loud, and he comes screaming up the road that passes across the front of the house in full speed. Jon laughed when I told him this. He said, “I don’t blame him. If I had to feed these damn cows every damn day, I’d drive like hell to get through it as fast as possible, too.”

But Jon doesn’t have to feed the cows everyday, and the chore had the sweetness of a novelty for both him and me. “No need to hurry,” he told me. “I’ve got a drink in my hand and my sweetheart at my side.”

It was 8:30 and well past dark when we finished. I say “we” but I didn’t do anything. Kept Jon company and drank my wine and looked at the stars. Watched a meteor streak across the sky and wished for peace and happiness, only to find myself in the middle of it, right in my own life, warm and happy as a cow sitting in hay.

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