Friday, January 7, 2011

The Gift


When I was about six years old, I announced to my dad one evening that I was going to learn to milk cows. We had about 12 milk cows at the time and my father milked them by hand every night and every morning. My dad just smiled at my suggestion that I would be able to help him once I learned.

So, determined to do this, I followed him out to the milk barn which was a small, low building back of the big barn. The path to the barn was made up of large stones, strategically placed in the dirt and manure that made up the lot. They were placed for my father's long stride, so I had to jump from stone to stone to get the the barn. I got there just as my dad opened the door and called the cows in.

They were lumbering giants, these cows. They were beautiful in the way they responded to my dad's voice, their big, trusting liquid eyes watching him as they all went to their spots and stood, placing their heads in the v-shaped grips on the walls, their tails toward the door. I stood, my back to the wall, and looked down the line at these massive animals. The smallness of the barn and their close quarters with one another only emphasized their enormity. Their square rear ends were now still, their tails periodically swinging to the loud country music my dad always had on the radio in the barn.

Sitting on his T-shaped stool, my dad began milking the first cow, humming to the radio. He stopped before the first bucket was full and poured the warm, foamy contents into a large pan that sat at one end of the barn. Instantly, about ten barn cats showed up to lap up the milk. These feral beauties I had never been able to get close to, were now within arm's length and they were letting my father pet them. My head swam with happiness. It was the warm summer evening, and I was filled with bliss, being in the barn with the cows, the cats, but most of all being with my dad, in his domain, watching the way he sang, and worked. The tension he sometimes carried while he was in the house seem to slip off his shoulders here and he was totally at ease and best of all, I was with him.

It was while I was in this blissful state that I noticed with great interest that the cow directly in front of me had raised its tail and I could see its crusty anus, twisting and turning like the shutter on a rusty camera. I was transfixed there by this sight, as if it were a real camera and I had to remain still until the picture was taken. I heard my dad's voice, "I wouldn't stand behind that one if I were you" but still I didn't move. I was memorized, hypnotized, transfixed. I heard my father's voice again, "That one's sick. You need to move."

Then it happened: the camera shutter opened, my eyes grew wide and my mouth opened in surprise, as the projectile diarrhea shot directly towards me. I felt the warmth coat my entire body and I sputtered as I stood, draped, covered, cloaked in runny light brown goo. I immediately started crying which was not a good idea as each gasp brought a new assault to my tongue and throat.

"Oh. Oh," my dad said calmly as he came my way. That's all he said as he surveyed the situation. There was no scolding, no admonishment, no kidding, no teasing. All he did was put down the bucket of milk he was carrying, gently take my hand, and helped me over the large stones, back through the big barn, and down the path to the house. I could barely see out of the small holes I had managed to make around my eyes. The evening was a warm one and I could feel the hardening of the crust on my skin. I felt low. I felt... well, like one does when one is covered in cow poop, but I also felt my hand in my father's hand and knew at least I was headed in the right direction.

I remember at least one sister screamed when she saw me and I remember the (understandable) shrinking back (I did look like a walking Snicker's bar) and then some shouts for my mom. She came out of the house, took my hand from my father and led me to the bathroom to get cleaned up. I felt remarkably clean and good after that bath though I would continue to find residue of the adventure in my ears and scalp for weeks.

My dad died six years ago; today would have been his 96th birthday. In addition to all I have to think him for, I have the lesson I learned from this incident.

It is this: there are times in life when we all feel just the way I did that day and the greatest gift we can receive is for someone to quietly, and without negativity, put down the work he or she is doing, take us by the hand, help us maneuver our way over the big stones in our lives, and gently guide us back home to get cleaned up.

Sometimes in life we are the ones who need the help and sometimes we are the ones who offer the hand. In the end, both situations are gifts.

Happy Birthday, Daddy, and thanks for the hand.



63 comments:

Seams Inspired said...

Best post ever, Betty! I was laughing and then bursting into tears. Thank you! Happy Birthday to your sweet Daddy. What a treasure he continues to be to you.

Happy Friday, friend. :o)

June said...

Dad Memories are the sweetest and warmest, aren't they?
I wish I had more of them.

Leah J. Utas said...

Beautiful story. A great life measure in so many ways.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wonderful tribute to your father. And walking Snickers Bar? I think you just upped the ante on funny!

Nat said...

A beautiful memory of your father! Such a funny one too :-)

Out on the prairie said...

A charming tale from a very charming lady.I can remember many people hand milking,now they only use it for cheese.I get cheese from a small creamery that gathers its milk from twelve Amish farms, the largest has eighteen cows.Of course my favorite is Prairie Breeze Cheddar.It is well worth paying extra for all the love put in to produce it.

Madi and Mom said...

BB,
That was quite a memory....(well minus the sick cow)!! Your Dad was a kind, loving Daddy.....

Seems I have something in common with him....today is my 62nd birthday. God bless his soul as he watches over you all,
Hugs
C

Parsley said...

I could see the 'shutter' as you were describing it and I couldn't help but to literally LOL!

I am so sorry for your loss but am glad you have good memories and funny ones that help ease the pain some.

Old Kitty said...

What a lovely tribute to your Dad!! Such calmness too!! I'm so glad he was there to help and guide you away from the crap!!

You gotta love the cows! Take care
x

Leanne said...

I am forever amazed at your brilliant writing and story telling skills, Betty. This is one of the top posts - and I can't thank you enough for sharing it with us. I'll keep you and your dad in my thoughts and prayers today. He'd be 96 years? amazing. And he lives on and on . . .

baygirl32 said...

beautifully funny post Betty. Love it

Zuzana said...

My goodness, this must have been one of the most beautiful tributes to a parent I have ever read...
You write with such an ease yet so candidly and with such a love and devotion and the way you use words to describe the atmosphere made me feel like I was right there with you, in that beautiful, warm barn...
What a poignant ending and wise words - indeed sometimes for someone just being there is all we need.
Coincidently, I announced the very same thing to my parents when I was also about 6 after seeing cows graze on a big meadow, which we drove by one day. Later I always dreamed about marrying a farmer, but unfortunately neither dream came to pass.;)
xoxo

Ally said...

Awww, what a beautiful post told in such an eloquent manner (as only Betty knows how). Loved it. For some reason, I always think of that old Sesame Street episode from the 70s when I think of milking cows ...

Velvet Over Steel said...

Oh my goosh... what a Great dad & beautiful tribute to him, Betty!!! I have goosebumps and tears!! Such a lesson in there of what true loving kindness you had/have for each other!!! Not to get upset and to just 'take care' of you that day!!! Awww... That is how a parent should be to their child.. even when we don't always listen. :-) Lovely & Best post I have read in my full year of blogging! Thank you, Betty!!!

Hugs & Lots of Love your way,
Coreen

P.S. Happy Birthday Betty's daddy!!

Jules said...

Betty this was a true gem of a post! What a blessing to have memories like this. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Baby Sister said...

Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes. That was beautiful Betty. I almost puked at the beginning, but the tribute you wrote to your father was beautiful. Thanks you for sharing. Happy Birthday to your father!!

Daisy said...

Wonderful post, Betty. Very sweet memories of your Dad (although not so sweet about the cow). It sounds as if you had a kind, caring, and compassionate father. This post hits home for me as my Dad died six years ago this past October. Hugs to you.

Pat Tillett said...

Wow! I have to admit that this got to me. What a great tribute to your Dad. Being Betty, you had to interject some bits of hilarious humor. You do that so darn well. "Like the shutter on a rust camera!" Oh man! That was so perfect!

I have to admit that I badly miss not having anything close to what you experienced with your dad. I'm happy that you have this memory...

Tabor said...

We had a cow or two and I learned to milk them...smarter than you were as I only stepped in it now and then. ;-)

Vodka Logic said...

Amazing the lessons we learn and remember. God bless your dad..90 years is a great life

Gigi said...

Oh Betty! As I was reading this at first I was thinking - Ick! I'm at lunch here. Now I'm thinking - Have any of these people in this deli noticed my tears? Thanks, Betty. Poetic as always.

Sarah said...

Such a gentle loving man. Happy Birthday indeed!

Brian said...

That was a wonderful story and such a fond and tender memory. Thanks for sharing!

Hilary said...

Such a beautiful gift, Betty. And a lovely tribute to your father.

Noelle said...

I'm with Baby Sister, I have to wipe the tears off of my face.

This was BEAUTIFUL and such a perfect tribute to your dad!

Lora said...

what a post! laughing and crying simultaneously. what a beautiful honor to your dad :)

ds said...

A story with everything: awe, laughter, tears--and a beautiful tribute to your father.
Thank you.

Shrinky said...

Your daddy raised his girl well, I think he must have been very proud of the woman you became. You are also a very gifted writer, dear lady, what a marvellous post!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Hi Betty thanks for your visit and comment, have already sent poem to head office in London also sent a copy to the manager who I met today, he is a pompus so and so , the kind that he is manager and the customers mere inconvieniences.
Well he has lost my custom and many more people I know.

Yvonne.

Michelle Faith said...

Wow what can I even say about this, I was there with you wanting to pet the cats and in wonder. Amazing writing and I so envy the love you have for your Dad, I never had that however I found it in my Father God.
Blessing to you on this, Your Fathers birthday.

My Big Secret Blog :) said...

Bet, this one made me cry. I love your blog for the stories you tell. I love it for the warmth, your beautiful posts and for the beauty you see in ordinary days. I am so glad you were privileged to be this amazingly loving man's daughter. Happy Birthday Daddy to Betty! Hope you both feel the love you'll share stronger than ever today!

Eva Gallant said...

What a wonderful post! It brought bacl memories of my youth. I, too, grew up on a farm. we had about 30 cows and my older brothers were in charge of the milking, though it wasn't done by hand; we had milking machines. But at 4,5,6, and all the way up to age 10, when Dad sold all the cows, because my brothers had grown up and left home, I spent much time in the barn, mucking out the area where the cows stood for milking, washing out the milking machine and pails, and feed grain and hay to the cows in winter. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

A great story. I love the fact that you were so happy and fascinated just before everything went brown. Children are so curious, and it's wonderful that you didn't get criticized for your exploration--you got a gentle hand instead.

The Adorkable Ditz said...

Good story, but ewwwwwwww.

http://theadorkableditzmissteps.blogspot.com/

Mamma has spoken said...

I did not see that one coming! So funny and one of the grossest stories I have ever heard in my life!
Good job Betty, good job!

Ann said...

A wonderful story to commemorate your dad's birthday. Sounds like he was a good one. Isn't it great being a daddy's girl :)

Shawn said...

Cant remember the last time I heard such a moving poop story - that rawks

Shawn

floweringmama said...

What a great memory and thank you so much for sharing.

That was so easily to visualize and I laughed out loud as I saw the camera shutter start to click . . .

Copyboy said...

Can't imagine a better daddy memory. :)

Marlene said...

Wonderful tribute to your daddy!

Have to admit though, laughed out loud at "walking snickers bar"!

faye said...

Such a wonderful post and memory
that you shared .Thank you.

Ami said...

He's still with you.
As long as you're sharing stories and still loving him, he's there.

And now we know him a little, too.

Thank you.

Anne Gallagher said...

Back where I come from, if you stepped in cow poop it was a sign of good luck. Of course no one ever wanted to step in it on purpose.

However, I think because you were showered in it, you got more luck than you bargained for. It's lasted a lifetime.

Lindy MacDuff said...

The unconditional love of our parents. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing, Betty.
=)

Clipped Wings said...

So funny and oh so sweet. You had many, many wonderful years with your dad. Looked back through some of your posts and 'It's not a right, It's a privilege' is hilarious. You have a very nice blog.

The Green Streak said...

Thank you for the tribute to the wonderful, loving father we both had and who lives on in our memories.

LittleSilkDress said...

Betty, you always write such fabulous posts. This is one of my favorites. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Stopping by to say congratulations on your well-deserved POTW from Hilary.
Cheers, jj

slommler said...

Such a beautiful memory Betty!! Love this story!
Congrats on your POTW award!!
Well deserved for sure!
Hugs
SueAnn

Brian Miller said...

and what a beautiful gift you have given him in this write...great job on the potw

Sandra said...

What a wonderful story for you to share, and your conclusions at the end are so perfect. Thank you. It's very, very deserving of Hilary's POTW.

Pauline said...

a well deserved POTW - and what a lucky girl to have had such parents.

holdingmoments said...

A beautiful story of a childhood memory.
A well deserved POTW win.

kcinnova said...

I was there in that barn with you: the warmth, the smells, and the sights. I might have even jumped back in my chair when the camera shutter opened...
Such an incredible POTW, with a warm and caring father remembered. Thank you for sharing.

Barbara Shallue said...

Beautiful story, beautifully told. I'm so grateful to Hilary for directing me here to read it. Thanks for sharing your lesson and your wonderful father with us.

Wendy said...

Oh my, what a beautiful, touching story. The love of your father is truly empowering. He sounds like a gentle and sweet man.

But, how awful for you to be covered in cow poop!! Yuk!!

Your mom must have washed the bathroom very well after you got cleaned up!

ethelmaepotter! said...

I must admit, after I read the paragraph about the shower of poop, I wondered where the heck "The Gift" came in. Then I found it, and it was indeed a gift of great importance, one that I'm sure has influenced your entire life. Your father reminds me of my grandfather - he always wore overalls, a hat, and rolled up shirt sleeves.
Happy birthday to your dad.

Cricket said...

A super-well deserved potw: sweet, touching... revolting. Well, you get it. Only you would find the gift hidden in a cow's crusty anus and a diarrhea shower.

Yes, I realize the gift was something else. But ugh... crusty anus is going to stick with me all day.

Congratulations on your potw. Me, I'm still trying to catch up from Christmas. I'll get there....

Suldog said...

Magnificently well-written post, and a great lesson to remember. You certainly deserved the Post Of The Week. Truly excellent read.

CherylK said...

One of the best posts, ever, Betty. I was just thinking that it would be a perfect POTW and now I see that it was! I'm way behind on my blog reading...gotta get back to Hilary's post to see who else is there!

Anyway, it's heartwarming to witness your love of your father and even more so when you share it. Thank you.

(I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat a Snicker's bar, again.)

Linda said...

A wonderful post, Betty, and very deserving of Post of the Week.

Lori said...

What a gift this post was to me...brought back memories of my own life growing up on the farm...this was a great story that made me feel like I was in that barn with you...and the truth of the moral of your story is such wisdom for us all to inhale...it truly is a gift when someone comes along to take us by the hand...as it is a blessing to give that gift to others...this is a great reminder for all of us to make a practice of giving this gift as often as we can. Congratulations on POTW...very well deserved...so thankful that I had this chance to visit you today.

john said...

Beautiful.