Strange the things come to mind when least expected. A niggle from the past comes creeping in, capturing the sense of smell, of touch, a memory.
I was watching a show about a bull that had lost a hoof. A new prosthetic hoof had been designed for the bovine. A demonstration of its new found dexterity not only tickled my funny bone, but also made me wonder what I had missed with the cows that live behind our house. The bull bound across the field, dancing after an enormous beach ball. It leaped and chased. It nuzzled the owner affectionately. What indeed had I missed.
Of course, in watching the bull’s warm nose being stroked by the owner, I was reminded of my sweet horse with a nose as soft as velvet. The smells of the leather saddle, the barn, the damp horse after a fast run all came dashing back to me. And, I lovingly embraced the reminder.
Sometimes I think the barn was more my home than the house. There was never a day without a trip to the barn. A check on the cows. A handful of hay for my horse. In the summer, a daily sitting in the hay mow door. A look across the field to the road. A time of listening to the sounds in the house, in the field, in the pasture and at the neighbor’s farms. Sometimes I’d visit the tractors and look at the old horse tack hung by the door. I’d touch the old, burlap feed sacks that Dad piled up over the cow stanchions. Searched for baby kittens. Gazed at some old fish Dad caught and put into the horse trough. Oh, yes, a daily trip to the barn. Hm. All that niggling from a bull dancing across a field with an artificial hoof.
Perhaps that jiggling of memory exposed what I had missed as a kid. I missed having our little herd of cattle as friends. I missed sitting with sheep instead of just ignoring them. I missed having more time with our rabbits, wondering if perhaps they could have been my friends as well. (I did not miss time with the chickens.) Wouldn’t my dad laugh to see his cows chasing balls across the creek bottom. Sneaking a peak, I would watch to see if he realized that he had more than just dumb animals. He had critters that could play and enjoy life.
“Daddy, do you think animals have feelings?” I asked at an early age. “No, they don’t have feelings. They’re just dumb animals,” He would reply. I have looked into the eyes of many a pet. “Oh, Daddy, indeed they do.”
Dance on, sweet bovine. Dance on.