By Cody Dennis
The summer sun is relentless today. I’m sunburned, exhausted, but Dad won’t let me go home until we get the cows in the barn. Before we head down the laneway to the pasture, Dad hands me a baseball bat, already hoisting one over his shoulder
“What’s this for?” I ask.
“Number 75 is a little feisty.”
I look at the bat a little puzzled. “This bad?”
“Just keep tapping her on the back and she’ll be okay.”
Sounds like another day in the office.
The dirt is dry in the laneway, radiating heat from the clear sky. I hear a pattern of snaps to my right.
“Dad, do you hear that?”
“That’s the electric fence touching the other gate. That’ll be your next project, fix that before you leave me.”
We make it to the gate to the dry cow pasture. A dry cow is a grown cow who’s unable to be milked at the moment, usually because they’re pregnant or getting treatment before breeding. Seventy-five is a young heifer, but very big for her age. She’s a black Holstein with a white face and a black circle on each eye. She looks me in the eyes and snorts.
“I know Dad, I got it.”
This isn’t my first time playing cowboy on the farm. I’m thirteen, I’ve done this as long as I can remember. What’s this cow going to do anyway?
Cows tend to walk away from us. If you approach them from the south, they’ll turn north and walk away from you. So we circle around the herd from both sides to funnel them down the narrow laneway, fenced off by electric barbed wire. Dad’s on their left, I’m on the right, maybe a foot away from the fence.
The herd of eight moves slowly, managing to kick up a nice cloud of dirt. I brush the crap off my sunglasses as I keep behind the animals. Seventy-five is slowing down.
“C’mon girl! Hup!” I give her a tap, reminding her I’m there. That’s when she stops.
“Hit her, Cody!”
“Get off my ass, Dad!” I give her a bigger love tap to get her going. It’s not working today. Dad walks away from the other cows to help me.
I smack her pretty hard this time. I’m getting sick of this shit. I hit her two more times, then she turns right at me. She tucks her head low and butts me in the chest.
“HIT HER!!” My dad yells as she charges me. Too late, she pushes me down and into the barbed wire. I don’t know how my dad got her off me. Between the snaps in my back and the screaming, Dad pushes her off and away from me somehow. A few jolts later he grabs my shoulders, yelling in pain as he yanks me away. He got a few zaps in the process.
“Dammit Cody! I told you to hit her! You got me shocked!”
I throw my bat in the weeds before I storm away crying, heading to the house. It’s just another day at Dennis Family Farm, “The happiest farm in Pompey.”
An hour later I’m showered and in my pajamas. Aside from a few back scratches and the gaping holes in my white T-shirt, I’m fine. Just ashamed at myself. I sulk on the rocking chair, wishing I was back at school. At least nobody yells at me there like Dad does. Speaking of Dad, he walks through the door. He takes a few breaths before he softly asks if I’m okay.
“I’m fine,” I mutter, barely able to look him in the eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m putting her on the beef truck tomorrow,” he says with sympathy in his voice. “I’m not keeping her if she’s going to hurt my son.”
He pats my shoulder.
“Thank you Cody. You were a big help today. I’ll see you in the morning”
He heads back to the barn to get the milking machines running. I go upstairs to play video games, trying to enjoy myself for once today.