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January 29, 2006

Life on the Farm

I’m still sick, although not with the stomach virus my kids caught. Somehow it mutated into a head congestion/sore throat/ear ache thing for me, which seems strange. I’m not sure if these germs all came in on the same vector, or if our house is like some Grand Central Station for all manner of infectious transportation.

At any rate, I haven’t run for two days out of the last three, which doesn’t leave you much to write about when you are supposed to be blogging about running. So I’m taking a page from the playbooks of Johnny Carson and Larry King, and turning the blog over to a guest host. (Don't worry - it isn't anyone nearly as annoying as Joan Rivers or Nancy Grace.)

My Aunt Joanie sent me this e-mail a while ago after reading one of my articles (and it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember which article it was). It was such a fantastic story that I saved it and asked her if I could post it sometime.

To set the stage a little: My aunt and uncle have lived in a town called Park Falls, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin nearly all their lives. They don’t make towns any smaller, or life any more rustic than what you find in Park Falls.

My aunt grew up working on her family’s farm, and that’s where this story starts…

Dear Donny (yes, I’m still allowed to use the –ny instead of the more mature –ald for your name),

Finally got to read your article. Very interesting. Funny. And closer to home than I'd thought possible. Allow me - a reformed runner - my fifteen minutes of rebuttal…

I learned to dislike running early on. Running was always very closely associated with disrupted sleep and disaster. I refer to the 3am jail-breaks of insomniac bovines.

How my father (God rest his soul) always knew when these bovine delinquents were executing their great escapes I'll never know...but he sure did. Nothing rousts you out of a deep sleep faster than the words, "Cows are out!" Even now, when I hear that phrase used in the slang for a zipper undone, I flinch.

Why they always waited until the wee hours of the morning - usually the morning of a big test - just proves their demonic nature. 'Dumb' animals? My great aunt Fanny! These creatures knew exactly what they were doing. And the most benevolent of them, the sweetest, gentlest, most liquid eyed, soft mooing pets by day quickly turned into cunning, calculating vixens by night. They were wily beyond belief, knowing just where the fence was the weakest.

The worst culprits were the best milk producers. They just knew that even the wrath of my mother (God rest her soul) would not be enough to reduce them to hamburger for churning up her garden.

Perhaps they were only bored. I'm sure that the sight of us, their 'masters' running around in mismatched boots, nightclothes (we had a vain hope of returning to bed and sleep) vocalizing in subdued screams (mustn't wake the neighbors three forties away!) brought some excitement to their mundane existence.

And run we did. A lot. It was track and field all through the night.

Sprints: racing to head off a 1500-lb moonlight crazed bovine is not for the faint of heart – assuming you can beat them to the fence, they can’t exactly stop on a dime.

Hurdles (high and low): inevitably their escape route would take them among common farm yard items...plows, tractors, wagons, rocks, other cows and cow pies. Knowing when to jump and when to bob & weave was an acquired art - and I had the bruises to prove it.

And, of course the marathon. Whoever said that cattle weren't distance runners either never saw a Western cattle drive movie or never chased a determined cow. The Energizer Bunny couldn’t keep up with them.

And just when you had all but one rounded up and headed in the right direction...BAM! Like a siren call, the lone straggler (or maybe ringleader) would let out a bellow & the whole herd would be off again. And let me tell you, “Stop!”, “Come back!”, “Here bossy, bossy, bossy”, and even “You stupid cow!” have absolutely no affect on a cow bent on escape.

IF you were lucky, they'd have pity on you and decide that cavorting in the rising sun just wasn't as much fun as it was in the moooonlight & it was time to go to the barn & rest.

The only saving grace was, no matter how bleary-eyed you were when you showed up in school, it was all explained by, 'Cows got out'.

Enjoy your run. I've had mine.

Be Well,
Aunt Joanie


stronger 1/30/06, 8:41 AM  

That is a great letter. I bet my mom could relate back to the ranch days in her town of 50- and her immediate family made up 1/3 of the population.

Good anti-running story.

Anne 1/30/06, 2:30 PM  

I like your Aunt Joanie. You must have developed your great storytelling from her side of the family.

jeff 1/31/06, 7:58 AM  

heh! i'm with anne, you've got that same storyteller gene!

tell her thanks for the read!

Aunt Joanie 1/31/06, 7:27 PM  

Well! I'm 'Udderly' flattered! Does this mean I've been published?
Thanks, Donny! Sorry you're under the weather, love & hugs to all!
Aunt Joanie
& Uncle Greg

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