Monday, January 26, 2009


(Note: The following essay was written in 1938 by my mother when she was a 19-year-old student at Moorhead State Teachers’ College. It was published in the Literary Designs supplement of the MSTC student newspaper, The MiSTiC. The “three young farmers” in the essay are her brothers. She left the family farm at age 14 to attend high school in Fergus Falls, working for a town family for her room and board. Then at age 17, she moved to Moorhead to attend college and become a teacher. She is now 90 years old.)

All is slow motion in the sloping shaded barnyard at the eve of a hot summer’s day. Six warm and tired horses come plodding from the water tank, hoofs kicking into dust, heads down, and harnesses rubbing and jangling in the early evening air. King and Rock pause at the salt stone, taste the salt by nibbling at it as a child would candy, toss their wavy red manes, and follow the rest of the horses into the darkened barn.

Even before their bridles are removed, the horses are nosing about in their full mangers for their evening meal. Occasionally a big horse sneeze breaks the monotonous chewing sound as a head comes up from burrowing deeply into the dusty hay. Birdy is trying her best to ignore her colt because she thinks he is getting too old for baby-talk. As the harnesses are removed, six sighs of relief come from the chests of six horses. They make the farmer sigh, too, but not with relief; he knows that he yet has more work to do.

From a remote section of the barn he hears the bawl of the impatient and hungry young calves. They have nothing to do all day but wait for their next meal and chase flies from their broad backs; they perform that work diligently. When they get their hay and feed, they become a contented devouring herd.

The cows come home from the pasture; tired, too, they move silently, breathing heavily, clicking their hoofs together, and eagerly quickening their pace when they sight the watering tank. Pat nips and barks half-heartedly at the heels of the laggers. A short while after the herd enters the barn, the clanking stanchions are closed on their thick necks.

Three young farmers, carrying spotless but noisy milk cans, pails, stools and a filter, proceed to rob each of the fourteen cows of her day’s accumulated treasure. The dull drumming of milk falling into the foamy pail and the tune of a cheerful whistler are suddenly interrupted by the swish and the swat of a hard, bristly tail.

Three little kittens lie expectantly waiting for their milk. Suddenly, they are all on their feet, running to meet one of the milkers who is coming toward them with a pail of warm milk. After they have lapped their fill, they walk off, stretching; the dog solemnly takes over the responsibility of licking the plate clean.

The cows are “let out” to pasture again, the pigs are fed, the turkeys and chickens go to roost in the trees, and a cool breeze starts the windmill’s steady pumping; night falls silently over the slumbering barnyard.

1 comment:

bd said...

One can see where you get the literary gene! Thanks for sharing this poetic piece that reminds me of growing up on our small dairy farm:-)