Farming has its rewards. A predictable day is not one of them. Summer chores are in full swing--a hundred bales of hay need to be moved just as the next farm’s promiscuous bull and his harem come to call. The fence between our two properties can’t keep two black angus bulls apart once they decide to butt heads and vie for male dominance. My husband, Buddy, strides out the door, clearly annoyed. Our neighbor never hurries to retrieve his happy wanderers.
On this hot summer day, our own cattle would have contentedly hung out in the shaded backwoods, well away from Buddy’s hay moving operation. Now that company has arrived, however, they’re eager to socialize. All those cows milling around will mean countless opening and shutting of gates for Buddy.
The phone rings. My mother-in-law is offering to share a pail of freshly picked cherries. Up at the old farmhouse, I find her giving Granddaddy an earful, while he leans on his cane. It seems he has a plan to keep the home team separate from the trespassers. All he needs to do is move our cattle into the orchard and close the gate. “See?” he says, “They’re standing right there.”
Granddaddy heads off toward the orchard on his 94-year-old legs. Grandma says he won’t be satisfied until he takes a fall and hurts himself. Then what will they do?
Hours later, a rusty pick-up truck parks in the shade of a walnut tree. Our neighbor and his helpers have finally come over to begin the roundup. Men and cattle commence running every which way. From a nearby field, Buddy leans against the tractor’s open door, taking in the show. He knows those wily animals have no intention of walking back the way they came.
Remembering Granddaddy’s plan, I glance out the window. Sure enough, the orchard gate is now closed. But do I see large red ear tags mingling with small orange ones? I believe so. Apparently the cattle Granddaddy corralled in there weren’t all ours.
In the end, Buddy and our neighbor give up on separating the two herds in the open. Sorting must be done in the barnyard - one by one. This is going to be a long evening.
My husband and I can expect other days such as this one, where things won’t go as planned, where hay won’t be hauled, dinner will be late, and catching a little of the US Open Golf Tournament on that fancy flat screen TV will have to wait. Over the years, Buddy and I have been tempted to pack our bags, to move away, to take life a little easier. But like the generations of family before us who have called this place home for more than two centuries, we’ve discovered our roots sink deep into the soil beneath our feet. We want to preserve and protect our piece of family history. We know that nothing lasts forever. We can feel the winds of change. Buddy and I may very well be the last generation to live here on the farm. But, at least in our lifetime, we will say with satisfaction, "We choose to stay.”