December 28, 2012 § 2 Comments
Finally, snow. And not just another piddling, half-baked storm, but the real thing: Hour after hour of darkened skies and mounting drifts. We could see it building the previous afternoon, our vantage point being most excellent, courtesy of a three-hour ramble through Cabot’s deepest, densest forests in search of a neighbor’s marauding heifer. Actually, “ramble” doesn’t quite do it justice, given the severity of the terrain, the speed of the chase, and the fact that, by the end of the second hour, Penny and I were both so sweat-soaked and stomach-empty we were having trouble walking a straight line. Indeed, I suspect the only thing that kept us going was the fact that the owner of said heifer is 64 years of age, was wearing blue jeans, a sweat shirt, and a baseball cap, and seemed as if he could’ve kept it up until dark. Hell, he probably would have, if not for the fact that evening milking was looming. In any event, we ended up high on a ridge on the other side of town, heiferless and hungry.
At one point, when it became clear we would need to cross a large stream/small river, our neighbor found a thin wedge of ice that looked at least marginally promising, and wormed across on his belly, so as to distribute his weight. As I watched him slowly making his way across the water, it struck me that for all the things I might want for myself in my advancing years, I want nothing more than to maintain the capacity for such adventures. Not just the physical capacity (although that’s clearly a crucial element), but also the mental and emotional capacity, the simple willingness to accept and perhaps even embrace the small, odd hardships of rural living. Because while I was frankly stunned by our companion’s physical endurance (did I mention he’s 64? And that he’d already worked what most folks would consider a full day? And that he still had a solid four hours of barn chores to complete before his day would end?), I was even more astounded by the equanimity he maintained.
Indeed, throughout the whole affair, there was banter and laughter aplenty, and not once did he raise his voice or express anything but the mildest duress. Perhaps this is merely the result of his relatively advanced years and the fact that, after six decades of farming and all the unanticipated challenges that implies, he has learned that the emotional drain of anger and frustration is a frivolous use of his energy. I won’t hit my 60’s for another 20 years, so I suppose there’s still hope that somewhere along the way, I’ll learn the same damn thing.
There is no satisfying conclusion to this story, for the young holstein is still out there somewhere, destined for some as-yet-undetermined future. But then, the same could be said for any of us, no?