An excerpt from my diary describing a kind of physical coming of age.
I’m stiff and sore, can hardly move, bruises down my side, pain permeating sleep nudging me awake.
Strung fence yesterday – page wire along the cedar rail fence in the barn yard to keep the new goats in; only did part of it but did it alone. Figured out how to start – staple the first vertical wire to the gate post, string a metal pipe through the fencing just before the nearest wire to the next post, brace it into place with a metal T-bar, lean into the bar with my side and reach with one hand to try to hammer a staple over the wire and into the post. T-bar cuts into my side. Outstretched leg strains to hold its place while I push, push that damned wire tighter, tighter. Staples are icy cold and gloved hands won’t hold them so it’s bare hand work with the temperature at -2 Celsius and the wind whipping out of the northeast. What the hell am I doing here? Me? Brains? Shut up. Push harder.
Two goats chewing the edge of the cardboard staple box. Oh God, they’ll spill the staples – or worse – eat one of them. “Beat it! Shoo! Get out of here!” Wave the hammer. They know I’m stuck here and move just a few feet away. “Move!” Can’t have staples on the ground for the cow or horse to step on. Damn my hands are cold. Try it with the gloves. No. Too awkward. Maybe just one glove at a time. Carry on.
The fence wire isn’t very tight but if I wire it to the cedar rails between the posts maybe it will be strong enough to withstand the goats standing on it. Clomping hooves. Duchess coming to see what’s happening. Hope she can see my outstretched foot. “Don’t step on it, Duchess, please. Go on. Get away with your horse curiosity.” And here’s Brenda behind her. Beautiful, heavy awkward Brenda with her patient, limpid eyes questioning my sanity. “You too, Brenda. Go on. Take your great swimming eyes and shove off.”
I love the animals, especially Brenda right now with her calf-heavy body and patient acceptance of the rough, frozen ground making it so hard for her to walk without tripping. You’re supposed to be able to ‘bump’ the calf by firmly pushing a fist into her side at the flank and have it ‘bump’ you back. I try but it doesn’t work. Each time Brenda just turns her great head and patiently grooms my dirty old overalls while I push at her swelling side. Great rasping tongue, licking – what an awesome urge these animals have to nurture and care for each other. Now that the heifer is gone, poor old Brenda turns all that ancient need toward the children and us, nuzzling, calling, grooming, grooming. I warm my hands in her thick coat. Turn again to the fence.
String the pipe through the next section. Lean into the T-bar and push, push, hammer – damn – bent the staple. Let it off and dig another one out of my pocket. Hammer it in. Take a break. No. Almost finished this roll. One more post to go. Lean. Push. Hammer. Lean. Push. Hammer. There. End of the roll. I’m quitting. I’m cold and my nose is dripping all over my chin. Now Brenda wants a drink. Up to the house for a pail of hot water to melt the ice in the water trough.
Now. Into the barn to move the old hay feeder from Brenda’s stall to the far stall for the new goats. Hope it isn’t fastened. No. It’s loose. I can pull it forward but it sticks after about 10 inches. God, it’s heavy. Must be at least 6 feet long and 4 feet high. What’s making it stick? A cement block wedged between the end of it and the wall. Can’t move it without help. Can hardly get my fingers in there. Maybe a lever. That 2×4. And a 2×6 to wedge under it. No. Can’t move it. Maybe if I stand on the end of the lever and try to lean over the top of the feeder and reach down for the block. Almost have it. If I can just get my fingers down into the holes on each side of it. Ouch! That picket is jammed right into my ribs. Hurts. Can’t let go. Just a little higher and I can push it over the edge of the feeder. Another inch. Lost it. Damn. It’s wedged again. Start over. Tramp the lever. Stretch. Lift, lift, pain in the ribs, lift, almost, almost, got it. Hold it there. Balance enough to shift grips and tip it forward – OUT. Tug it out of the way and start on the feeder. Dear Heaven! It’s big! How can I do it? One end, lift, pull and then the other end, lift, pull. Lift, pull. Inch out of this narrow space. Goats think I’m crazy. I am crazy. Take off my jacket. Sweat pouring down my back, between my breasts. Lift pull, lift pull, little by little, an inch at a time, lift pull, lift pull. Out of the stall. Wait. Breathe. Down the aisle. How many feet? 25? Maybe 30? Don’t count. Start again. Lift, pull, lift, pull, little by little, lift, pull. Oh no…didn’t prepare a space in the other stall for it. Have to move enough of the bedding out to squeeze it in. Leave it here in the aisle. Crazy goats. Running all over the barn. When will they get used to me – half-wild creatures. Afraid of me. Why did I buy them anyway? Two weeks now and they still run when I come near. I want so badly to touch them. Oh well….
Start on the bedding. Must be 8 inches thick, the bottom four a sodden, thick mat. Almost impossible to pull apart. Tug. Fight. Stinks. Ammonia. Ugh. Must be good for the sinuses. Need the wheel-barrow to start carrying it out. There’s an awful lot. How many loads do you think, Mary? Don’t count. Just carry. Fill. Push. Fork over the fence. Back again. Once, twice, don’t count. Fill. Push. Fork over the fence. Again and again. Enough. The feeder. How will I ever get it through the stall doorway? Will just fit but jams on the straw. Have to pull from inside. Impossible. No room to inch it from side to side. Can’t leave it here. Climb over. Try. Can manage one inch each way. Start again. Lift pull left, lift pull right, one, two, one, two. Lungs straining. Mind won’t contemplate this. Body goes on. Lift pull, lift pull. It’s there. In. Through. Now, just have to wiggle it over to the far wall. Try not to get stuck on the bedding on this side. Will drag along and mess up the space I cleared. Again, lift, pull, lift, pull, inch by inch. Don’t think. Mind-body litany, inch by inch, lift, pull, lift pull, ancient, eternal, lift, pull. I am – in this act – I am – outside of time – lift, pull, lift pull. Done. Adjust. Finally creaking, settling into place. Wedge something under that corner. There! Rock it. Still too easy to tip. The cement block. Get it. Push it underneath and wedge it over the feet of the thing. Drag block. Grope in the dark under the feeder. Face in the soggy bedding. There…that will do it.
Sink down against the wall. “There you are, you mangy little devils. No more wasted feed trampled on the floor. You should be grateful enough to allow me a little pat. A scratch behind the ear? No? Tomorrow then. Tomorrow. I’ll win. I can’t lose. Lift pull, lift pull, lift pull….