Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Different Sort

Once, I found myself leaning on the hood of a majorly dilapidated old pick-up, talking about farming, food and other things with one of my favorite of the neighborhood farmers. He had come over to AI our milk cow. (for the uninitiated…that’s artificial insemination, yes, that means what you think…that’s how we got our calves most times….when done right it’s MUCH easier than keeping a bull around!) This fellow is the best there is! Over 10,000 bovine births here in the county and elsewhere are direct results of Mr. A-I’s expertise and dedication.

We were having difficulties getting this cow bred. Well, this was only the second attempt, but his reputation was at stake, he claimed to get it the first time….EVERY time. I thought there were mitigating circumstances. The weather had been atrociously hot, and the timing had been slightly off… I wasn’t real worried (yet.) There is a science to the whole ordeal and I had garnered enough knowledge in our years of dairy cows that I felt pretty confident in our current arrangement. (This was a major leap on my part…the cows had caused me more worry than perhaps ANYTHING in my life up to this point) He suggested that if it didn’t work this time, that I call Dr. Supervet. He asked if I knew him. Before I could answer, he said “he’s the BEST source of knowledge when it comes to cows and reproduction….but, he’s a different sort!” I looked sideways at him…I was afraid if I looked at him full on he would see my open-mouthed gape. “A DIFFERENT SORT? Had this guy looked in a mirror….in years?

The last time he had been out to the farm, I was more than startled as he hollered his greeting when I walked out the backdoor to the barn …“Hey! Ain’t ya glad I DRESSED for the occasion?”and he turned around and around so I could get the full effect. To say the outfit he was wearing was noteworthy would have been an understatement. Starting at his feet, he had on what may have been (once long, long ago) white sneakers, very long, sorta white gym socks, cut-off jean shorts with un-even length legs, a western shirt that may have been nice at one time…now, it was minus its sleeves and missing more than one snap. To top off this lovely ensemble, he had been working calves all day and was covered head to toe in splatters of cow manure. His hair and ball cap were filthy. I wouldn’t have wagered a guess as to when he had last shaved. Yeah, he had certainly DRESSED for the occasion. But, the absolute best part of the story….he’d been to town in that outfit….and he hadn’t even thought of cleaning up first!

…and this guy was sayin’ someone else was a “different sort”? Seriously?

It’s not just his clothing choices. He had called the night before to confirm his arrival in the morning. “Hey, I’m standing by the ferris wheel ” he said, “had to take the wife to the fair, ya know. I think the morning will be a good time…whatcha think?” an answer to this query completely failed me. Once he had worried that he might be too late, so he called with the explanation that he and his brother were eating sausage biscuits! Another time he had appeared out of the blue, on a rag-tag old motorcycle that he had just been given, only to say, “haha, can’t fit the tank on this thing…I’ll be back with the truck in a bit!” and he roared off. Later he arrived in an equally rag-tag truck, his dog companion sitting in the front seat, for the “cow appointment”. Needless to say, the cows did NOT approve of his little friend. To describe this fellow farmer as a colorful character is somewhat of an understatement. But, for him to call someone else a “different sort”…Oh, my word! What did that mean? What in the world was he thinking?

As soon as I had the thought, a vague feeling of discomfort washed over me…whoa, there…I can’t say a thing!

What about that time I went tearing through the back field after a piglet (that had been traumatized by a very angry cow), back in the days of dressing “plain”…long skirt and headcovering flying , only to find myself face to face with the electric fence? No worries…stop, drop and roll….right under that fence! Got the pig, too! I walked him back to the barn just like I was pushing a wheelbarrow. The little old lady that lives behind us saw that one…and told one of the other neighbors. I heard about myself secondhand. ugh

Then there was the time the dog escaped….I ran after him, shedding boots and then glasses on the side of the road in an effort to keep up. The neighbor who met me at the end of the lane to help laughingly said he was wondering what was coming off next! That was after it had occurred to me that I was standing barefoot in the middle of the road, unable to truly see the dog I was screaming after…and yes, there were witnesses. Now, THAT was embarrassing!

I’ve startled the UPS man by cheering when we got a livestock scale.

I frightened another when I yelled at him for letting the dog out as I went bulleting off after the escaped canine. But, I ask you….if a gate is closed….?

I’ve been to town, only to find that I, too, am splattered in sheep or cow manure. I have called the vet and ask for him by his nickname that none of the office staff knows, I haven’t hesitated to discuss farm issues (including animal reproduction) with strangers, the packages I pick up at the post office nearly always have some odd story to go along with them, my wardrobe...for years I combined long denim skirts and workboots(to this day, they are my footwear of choice), my fridge had multiple animal medications in the storage compartments….the list could go on.

In that brief moment, I realized that while the Super-vet might be a “different sort”(For the record, I know him well and I have yet to figure out what makes him a “different sort”…maybe ‘cause he’s NOT) , and Mr. A-I most certainly is…I may well take the prize.

I think I’ve known that ever since I looked in the mirror…all those years ago!

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