Tuesday, June 24, 2008


“There ain’t a whole lot can be done for a blind calf. ‘Specially not this one,” he sighed, a great deep sigh. His butt rested on the edge of the seat as he leaned his shoulders back onto the straight wooden rungs of the kitchen chair. He dropped his chin and slid his hat down over his face, pausing there with the smell of sweat thick in his thoughts. He sighed again, sitting forward to half-toss his used-to-be-white hat at the top corner of the chair next to him, kicking at the chair leg. It scraped away from the table, enough room to get his muddy boots off.
The woman at the stove didn’t answer; he didn’t expect an answer, didn’t really want one. She lifted the lid off the small silver pot on the front burner, steam escaping with a clean, green smell. She poked the contents with a fork and set the lid back in place. Another minute, maybe; just right with the biscuits in the oven.
“He’s got himself a twin brother and his mama won’t claim ‘im, won’t let him anywhere near.” He shook his head, grunting softly as he pulled one boot off, using his socked toe to push at the other, loosening off the heel, calloused hands on knees. It came loose and he reached down to right them, pairing them up with his hand stuck down in the high leather tops, moving them under the table. The heels made a sharp flat slap on the old linoleum, dried mud falling off in chunks.
The woman sat a flower-rimmed plate of still-sizzling fried chicken on the table. He stood and walked to the sink, rolling up his sleeves. He lifted the faucet handle and without checking the temperature, stuck both big hands right under the stream of water. He grabbed up the cracked yellow cake and set to working up a lather, scrubbing at the lines of dirt on his wrists, running his fingers together soapily. He picked at a couple of the cracked fingernails, dark earth showing in crescent moons at their tips. He dropped the bar back onto the sink’s soap ridges and rinsed.
“I got two choices and I don’t like either one,” he shut the water off, dripping on the floor as he turned, pulling at the dishtowel -white with light green stripes and a thin fringe on both ends- that hung from the silverware drawer, “I can shoot him or I can bottle feed him.” He stuck the corner of the towel back in the drawer and walked back to his chair to sit in front of supper.
The woman leaned over the table, filling a plate with chicken and fluffy white biscuits and poke greens and baby peas. She set the plate in front of him and busied herself arranging his meal: butter and gravy placed close to his tall cold glass of milk, salt and pepper and more hot biscuits covered over with a sackcloth towel close at hand. He waited until she sat.
“I sure as hell don’t need a big ol’ slobbering blind baby to take care of,” he said, watching her watching him as he began to eat.

-MK Stover


Mike said...

I raise cattle and I hear him. And I feel his pain. Calves are a delight and an agony all of their own.

I have raised bottle calves. Many in fact. Most with success. Many people who visited me, not familiar with farming, were startled when a calf walked up and tried to suck their fingers. They thought it was trying to bite them. Of course, I laughed. I have stood at the fence talking to my neighbor feeding my finger to a hungry calf many times. But then, he is a farmer, too. He sometimes asked to buy the cow that calf came off of because he liked the way it sucked. That is a sign it will bring good money in the Fall.

I have also walked out in a field with weather so cold to tend a down cow that my fingers near froze. And I carried her water from the pond a hundred yards away, five gallons at a time 6 times a day. That ain't much unless you are the one doing it knowing it's a lost cause. And carried her hay a mile or more on my back rather that just shoot her.

So, I understand your character. I do. It is not a thing a farmer wants to face, but must every day.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

How absolutely beautiful; the stories, the characters, the writing. Being a writer myself, there's such a different sensibility in your niche. May I add you to my blog list so that I remember to come back? Thank you. Petra Michelle