"Want to go on a road trip?" I asked her over the phone. Now, even though her mother had warned her over and over that if she was smart she would say no to my invites, she just knew it was bound to be interesting, so she agreed. I picked her up in my maroon Subaru wagon, we drove an hour and got on the turnpike north.
"What exactly are we going after?" she asked, rather nervously I thought.
"You'll have to wait and see," I said. I glanced over at her and saw her look at me with a look of, oh I don't know..fear? desperation? It was a few years before I saw that look again on her face, and that was when I slapped the cop, but thats a different story.
We pulled off the highway and drove several more miles, before I turned into a farm driveway. We drove past the barking dogs milling about and past the silo in the yard. A farmer in overalls and high boots walked out of the barn door, and motioned for us to back up.
"Oh boy, what are you getting?" she asked me. I could tell she was praying for something small and contained..like maybe a crate of hens..or perhaps even a puppy..or litter of barn kittens. Her hopes were dashed as I got out and opened the tailgate, and then spread a tarp over the backend of my car.
I turned to go inside the barn where the farmer was waiting to talk to me, and make our deal. The smell was wafting out and into the car, and I saw Zenya open her window for fresh air, like it was any fresher on the other side of the glass. I followed the farmer into the dark barn, and came back with my purchase..a little jersey calf.
I saw Zenya's jaw drop, as the farmer carried the calf out and plunked him in the back of my car, blatting feverishly. I closed the tailgate quickly, and waited, while the farmer went back and got my second calf. We quickly put the second calf in the back end of the car with the first, and I slammed the door. To say they weren't particularly happy was an understatement. They were milling around and bumping into each other. I looked inside from the rear of the car, and could see Zenya's round eyes staring at the back end of the car. I smiled and thought,"she loves these trips."
I started to head toward the drivers seat but the farmer made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He would throw in a free calf that was small and not likely to make it. I thought I would try it, and see if I could save it. So he went back inside and carried out the third calf, a tiny little jersey. I didn't dare put it in the way back with the two rambunctious calves, so I laid it on a grain bag behind the drivers seat.
I hopped in, and looked at Zenya and said.."Aren't they the cutest?" There is nothing like a jersey calf, and those little bulls were adorable. She hesitantly agreed, and I think it was because she had completed 4 years of college to my 2 years, that she was already seeing the upcoming "issues" that I had failed to see.
The first started as soon as I headed down the driveway. I had, incorrectly , thought that the calves were like kids, and would fall asleep as soon as we started to drive. Not even close. Even though they were a few days old, they realized they weren't at home any more, and started to blatt and moo. Steady. And not in unison. One after another. All three. Even the country music station did nothing to soothe them. We turned the radio up to try and drown out the noise. It didn't work.
Phase two of the epic fail came as I went to step on the gas to pick up speed. The calves, still standing up and milling around, lurched toward the back of the car, and then in an effort to correct themselves, lunged forward...and right into the backseat behind us.
"Crap!" I exclaimed, as a calf was suddenly climbing into the front seat with Zenya. While she was trying diligently to push him back, the other big one was stepping on the smaller calf behind my seat. I felt thrashing and kicking, so I pulled over, and got out of the car in the breakdown lane, and opened the passenger door. I grabbed the calf to put him back in his spot, and he jumped over the seat, dragging me with him, The other one was now at my side trying to suck on my hair, shirt, elbows anything it could get a hold of. I wrestled him into the back with his buddy, and helped the calf behind me get straightened out on his grain bag.
Breathless, and slobbery, I got back in, and couldn't help but notice Zenya, while not saying anything, was looking like she was trying very hard not to laugh. I had gotten a well placed hoof to the leg, so I wasn't finding anything funny yet in our adventure.
We pulled back on the turnpike, and picked up speed, heading toward the tollbooth in Gardner. It wasn't 5 minutes down the road when suddenly, it started. The smell. I hadn't planned on that. It suddenly seemed like those calves had nothing else to do but poop. The two in the back started it, and not to be outdone, the one directly behind me joined in as well. Just as I pulled up to the tollbooth. And, of course, I didn't have correct change.
I rolled the window down, and smiled weakly at the attendant. The smells and sounds that rolled out of the car made the smell of diesel fuel and the sounds of eighteen wheelers seem like a trip down Macy's perfume aisle.
"Hello", I said nonchalantly. "Nice day, huh?" The person didn't bat an eye. I guess she sees and smells that every day on the job. Or it might be that she had no sense of humor at all. I took my change, and quickly drove off.
There were people that did have a sense of humor however. Several cars passed us, and then would slow down and gawk, as we passed them. There was plenty of honking and waving, although I'm not sure Zenya saw too much..she rode with her face out the window most of the way home, I even tried to buy her an ice cream at Dairy Queen, thinking I made a clever joke.."dairy?? Jersey calves..get it, get it??" She smiled, but I don't think it was for real. I couldn't tell for sure though, her head was still out the window. My car was never quite the same. The tarp? Yeah, needless to say, it moved. My kids refused to be driven to school in the car for weeks. I didn't think it was THAT bad.
Another time I went on a solo adventure to Waterford, a small town near my house. I tried to get Zenya to go, but her mother said she was "busy." I didn't buy it then, and I don't now. Anyway, I drove up to look at calves again. I met the nicest old farmers, two brothers that kept a few dairy cows on their old family farm. We walked into the barn, and I followed the oldest farmer into the stanchion area. He had a nice little Ayrshire heifer calf he wanted to sell. He was so nice, and took good care of his animals. Well, he apprently liked me, so he gave me a really good deal on the calf, plus said he would save the next one for me if I called him and told him I wanted it. His brother watched as we made our deal, then I walked out ahead of the farmer to open my tailgate.
The heifer was bucking and jumping and was quite a handful, so I opened my tailgate and stood off to the side as he picked her up and quickly put her in the back of my car. I hurried to close the door before she got out, and proceeded to slam the tailgate. On the farmers head. Knocked him out cold.
I was MORTIFIED. He was so sweet, and had just given me a good deal and what did I do? Knocked him down on the ground as handy as Muhammad Ali. I felt terrible. I bent down to help him as he came to after a moment, and started to sit up, bleeding from his head. Apparently, the farmers wife and brother also saw what happened, so they rushed out to help get the poor old fella back on his feet. I reached out to take his arm, and I think I saw him flinch.
He got to his feet, and was so kind to me, despite the fact I almost killed him. He assured me he was fine..things happen like that all the time..( like really?? Women always come to your farm to buy a calf and end up knocking you out??) No, he didn't need to go to a doctor and he hoped the calf would turn out nice for me. I even tried to give him more money.
"Here..take my wallet...can I give you 50 dollars more? Do you take visa??"
He assured me again he was fine, and I swallowed the giant lump in my throat and got in my car to drive off. I glanced in the rear view only once, and saw his wife blotting his forehead with a hankie. I never went back for the other calf. I think he was relieved.
|Brogan feeding one of our car calves.|