Do I Dare Make a Stupid Joke About Driving a Ford? And the Winner is…

June 18, 2013 § 5 Comments


You know, you go your whole life thinking you ain’t never gonna amount to much. Your parents telling you that if you don’t get your act together, yer gonna end up living on a little hill farm in northern Vermont with a couple of wild-ass children and some half-baked “career” as a writer or something, spending all your spare time slopping pigs and mucking out barns. Your teachers tell you that if you don’t apply yourself, you’re gonna end up dropping out of high school and never going on to college, and then… why, who knows what awful fate awaits you? Goodness, you might wind up spending your days ruminating on the meaning of money and education and whatnot, making $30k or so per year if you’re good and lucky, and heavens knows you can’t live on that. (BTW, my parents never told me this, nor did any of my teachers. At least not explicitly)

And then. Then, on a magical day in your 41st year, this poster arrives in your inbox. And it’s you and the man you’ve always felt such a deep and abiding kinship to, right next to one another (although isn’t his picture just a bit bigger than mind? I’ll have to talk to the designer…).

Anyway, truth is, this poster cracks me up. I place little-to-no stock in Hollywood celebrity, but I have to say, if there’s any Hollywood celebrity I can sort of enjoy sharing a poster with, it’s Chevy. Or maybe Steve Martin. Now, that would be pretty cool. Maybe next year…

Other stuff this week:

I’ll be on VPR’s Vermont Edition today at noon and again this evening at 7.

I’m reading at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier tonight at 7 (I was worried how this was going to work out until it was explained to me that the evening VT Edition is actually just a rebroadcast. Whew)

Thursday evening, I’m reading at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, NY. Never been there, but they tell me it’s nice.

Saturday, I’ll be chillin’ with Chevy and Jayni at Barnfest. Hope they don’t come at me with that pitchfork.

Hope to see some of you!

Oh yes, and the winner is, for sheer originality and effort and because I’m a sucker for a good story, Anne Kretschmann! Thank you all, and for those of you who didn’t win and can’t afford to buy the book, please consider asking your library to get it.

The tale of twenty-five dollars begins two months ago in a messy barn on a 200 acre farm as far north as you can get without being either in Lake Superior or Canada. We had what felt like an endless spring, the snowiest in over ten years with snow halfway up the buildings into April and the ice remaining on the lakes into late May. When the spring snow finally melted, mud season in red clay country began in earnest. At the crowning peak of this pleasant season, the pond overflowed its banks, diverting itself through the pole barn providing enough water for two geese and a wood duck pair to spend their days swimming between wagon tires. 

The barn was also ‘home’ to a hundred beef mamas and calves with more on their way. The cows were not yet allowed on pasture due to its achingly slow growth. On a miserable, rainy day, a calf chose to make an ungraceful entrance into not only the world but into a flooded messy barn. It is unclear how she landed when she was born (face down?) or if mama simply abandoned her to eat some hay leaving her to flop in the slop. All that is known that when found, she looked like a brown tootsie roll that a child sucked on for an hour, black, covered with brown slimy manure-water. Dottie, the black angus mama, distinguished by a white dot next to her eye, a fairly young cow was already on notice from her prior pregnancies, one of which resulted in a breached dead calf (subsequently becoming a good foster mom to a neighbor’s Holstein calf for which she received another chance.) We quickly loaded up the soggy new calf into a sled for a rough ride to an older drier barn (with pens for new moms and calves to bond in) with Dottie following after a few persuasive human yells.  

For three days, the little black heifer calf and her mama were the picture of happiness and health. Then, the calf contracted the dreaded ‘stomach bugs’. It’s a wonder she survived, but her will to live was great. She got better, then worse, then better. We named her Yo-yo, because she went back and forth so much. Dottie was put on further notice of bad things in her future should the calf die. Then, inexplicably, the stomach bugs turned septicemic, going into her joints and causing partial paralysis to her rear half. Dottie, ever patient, stood over her allowing her to drink without the calf having to stand. 

The calf’s stomach got better, but now it was on to multiple times a day ‘physical therapy’ in the barn, lifting her, making her stand, rubbing her back legs. Eventually, she would try to walk, however her back feet knuckled over and we forced her to straighten them as part of her therapy. Despite our efforts, she developed scabs on the tops of her back feet. 

This is when the real fun began. One evening, several weeks ago, one scab split open revealing black bones indicative of gangrene. A plan was hatched to amputate her hoof, and the following morning she took a pleasant ride in the truck the two miles to the vet. She loved the truck ride as it was her first experience out of the barn, there was plenty to look at, and the breeze felt good. The vet poked, prodded, and her pastern bone came out in his hand, completely black. After some disagreement about where to amputate, her hoof was removed at the dewclaw. The following day, the scab on the other foot split.

For the last three weeks, every night we lay her on her side with one of us holding her 180 pound body still. We’ve discovered that she likes to have a boot to lick while we play vet. We clean both feet and treat them with honey which draws out the infection and silver which sooths and heals. Then, we wrap them with a menagerie of gauze, maxi pads, diapers, stretchy flex wrap, and tape. Yes, I’m sure that the women at the grocery store in town were very perplexed by my shopping cart. She is healing, but everything with this calf is a process. 

The end of the tale of twenty-five dollars is a ‘boot’ contraption made out of a creative combination of a child’s Velcro shoe (cut in half), gorilla glue, and a yogurt cup. That is what twenty-five dollars shall get me in this day and age, a homemade prosthetic hoof for an unfortunate calf with a heck of a will to live. Here on this farm, we honor that will.

§ 5 Responses to Do I Dare Make a Stupid Joke About Driving a Ford? And the Winner is…

  • Kent says:

    Chevy & Jayni Chase never had such enviable company as on that poster! I am halfway through one of my two copies of $AVED . . . and am loving it. (I just may have to buy two-hundred copies to share with friends!) Love the story of “Yo-Yo” and salute the judge’s decision to award $25 to Anne Kretschmann. Ben, this active blog is THE BEST. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Fisk says:

    Anne deserves the $25 and then some. I’m afraid that calf wouldn’t have made it with me and her mother would be in the freezer. Good job Anne.

  • Dawn says:

    Good choice! I enjoyed Anne’s story, as well. I once made a splint out of pipe cleaners and bandage tape for a day-old chick with curled toe paralysis. Worked like a charm and she struts around the farm today with no problem. I’d say Chevy is going to be in good company. Sounds like a great event.

  • CJ says:

    I concur with the others, an excellent choice for the winner!

  • Anne says:

    Thanks all. It’s a surprise that the calf and cow have both managed to stay alive (abet not completely whole.) I was betting on the freezer for quite a while, but things are looking up! I also welcome any ideas on how to make a prosthetic hoof (using $25)…

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