Wednesday night I jumped off the golf cart into a pile of shit. It’s happened to the best of us (literally and figuratively) but at 11pm, merely one hour after a shower and wearing long cotton pants to protect my legs against the frigid evening (72* – brrr!), this particular pile of shit was upsetting. Last week I was knocked down hard with a brutal little head cold, the kind you feel sneaking up in the back of the throat for three days before it punches you square one morning as you wake innocently from bed. The only benefit of Jer’s injury has been his eternal gratitude for my help in his most helpless hours; a favor he was quick to return now that he’s fairly mobile. This meant that he did almost every chore this week, short of milking, or at least ferried me through the pastures on his golf cart, the key to his mobility and sanity, a contraption I rallied hard against but now fully appreciate. In the depths of a head cold, a golf cart makes this place manageable – really. Leaping off the thing, however, means you land with some force, in this case causing shit to fly up onto my pants, to seep around my newly cleaned foot and ankle. I shudder remembering. And at that moment I shuddered to think of the various other chores still incomplete and the thought of doing them encased in such filth. So I did what seemed normal and reasonable at that moment, exercising one of the many liberties of country living in a relatively secluded spot. After spraying what I could off my leg, I carefully removed my pants, scrubbed my foot down with some grass and water, tossed the pants into the back of the cart, jumped back into the seat and commanded Jer to “Go!”. Off we flew down the little driveway, and peeled to the left towards the cows and bucks who now are locked safely into a pen each night.
In this state of almost complete undress, I herded curious cows from the gate and went about the motions of filling water buckets, tossed out hay and grain, scratched muzzles, and kissed two goats goodnight. I felt momentarily ridiculous illuminated in the golf cart headlights, wearing only crocs, underwear and a tank top. A surge of annoyance about the lingering smell of shit was replaced as soon as a wind whipped around the corner of the pen. Night breezes feel particularly delicious against bare legs, and I was the central character in a ridiculous diorama; me half naked in a feral pasture keeping hungry beasts at bay with one hand, slapping fire ants from my ankle with the other. Madaline and Rodeo mooed forlornly since the food I was dispersing wasn’t for them, and Octavian tugged gently on my underwear as I walked from the pen. This isn’t annoying, I grinned stupidly. This is why you are here, I thought as the enormity of the moment ballooned, to bid livestock goodnight in inky darkness wearing almost nothing, just the stars blink down as witness.
A friend commented recently on how hard but good this work can be, the kind of work that feeds your soul – he said. I doubt he was referring to this sort of sustenance; the freedom you feel when standing nearly naked in a pasture, but I am full from those nights. They’re small moments tucked in between the truly mundane and treacherous stuff, and they flit by fast if you don’t take the time to tease them out of the every day burdens that can be a weight to shoulder. But when I find them, it’s like sitting at a table and feasting. Tuck a napkin in your shirt smeared with grease, hold a fork and knife between hands chapped and strong, and survey this little kingdom of soul food.
I haven’t been hungry in a good long while.