Snow fell lightly in the early-morning darkness as I walked on Rabbit Lane. Just past Ron’s house, I found a newborn calf lying in the shallow swale beneath the barbed wire fence. Flakes of snow flecked its black fur. This newborn had somehow lost its mother and was dying in the cold of the ditch. I groaned as I hefted the heavy calf and staggered to Ron’s back door. Ron soon came, taking the calf into his warm house with a “thank you.” The experiencing of finding and rescuing the newborn calf moved me deeply, and I wrote this poem.
lay beneath the rusted barbed wire fence
by the side of Rabbit Lane:
a lonely, black puddle in Winter’s whiteness,
salted with slowly settling snowflakes.
Death’s sadness reached into me,
a dull ache in my empty stomach.
It drew me to the calf.
I came near and reached out
to touch the black fur.
The small, black head lifted weakly,
turning big, moist eyes
to meet mine,
speaking to me
a simple, sad story:
of wandering from its mamma,
of slipping between the loose, rusty strands,
of learning it was lost,
of growing cold and weary,
of knowing fear,
of slumping down to die.
I strained to heave the newborn from the snow,
and trudged with my burden to
the dilapidated farmhouse.
I knocked shyly, a stranger,
whispered at the back door,
transferred my quivering bundle
to the thankful farmer,
to the warmth of a coal fire and a tender expression,
to warm bottled milk,
to a promise:
to find a mother,
to restore the proper order of things.
Ben was attempting to herd his cows from one field to another as I walked in his direction on Church Road. The process first involved opening the gate at the receiving field, then opening the gate at the sending field. In theory, Ben would then shoo the cows out of the sending field down the road and into the receiving field. At the open sending field gate, Ben’s wife and children lined themselves up across the street, arms outstretched, forming a barrier the cows were supposed to respect. The kine, however, had ideas of their own, and strolled indolently between Ben’s kin. Continue reading →
Farm fences flank me as I walk on Rabbit Lane two days before Christmas. Walking the length of the country road, I begin to contemplate the nature of fences. Fences keep the cattle in their pastures, while keeping pheasant poachers out. Fences remind me of the limitations I put on myself through fear and doubt. I think of social, legal, political, and relationship boundaries. I ponder that each cedar fence post used to be a juniper tree thriving in the Utah desert. I imagine lines of soldiers marching into battle in distant early-morning mists. Ultimately, we can choose to transcend many of our life’s fences, like the butterfly that simply flies over, as if the fences do not exist.
Grain-field fences march
away in a disciplined line,
cedar post after cedar post,
each tugging its barbs
taut as burning guns
at soldiers’ cheeks, marching
straight and away at an acute angle
to the way I would go,
hemming me in with wicked wire
points, urging me down, at the risk
of gash and scar, the direct
and dusty disciplined road,
while a Tiger Swallowtail
lazily wafts its easy way across
the fence to flutter above
the ripe wheat tops,
and a Western Kingbird
darts here and there,
erratic, up and down,
above all artificial lines, chasing
invisible insects overhead.
–You deserve a palace made of gold. (But even a gold palace needs to be kept clean.)–
(Dad to Erin-8)
We moved to the country in the Spring of 1998. Our new home offered so much room for the children to explore and play and run around. They tromped through the tall, tan field grass making twisting paths that were not even visible from the house. Once the children entered the grass they couldn’t see out (or be seen from without). They were pioneers, blazing new trails in the wilderness, whacking at the grass with stick swords. Continue reading →