Monday, February 11, 2008

Rusty Pails #14
Farmer Harris and Annie

by Rocky Macy

(Note: This short piece was written out of respect for Harris Farmer, a gentle soul who was my father-in-law. Harris passed away several years ago and is missed by all who knew him.)

Farmer Harris is truly a man of few words. He only smiled, in fact, when Shadetree Mike told a group of agrarians at a recent auction that raising cattle looked like a grand way to make a living. “Why,” Mike bellowed, “all you have to do is feed, water, and sit back while the money rolls in!”

That evening Farmer Harris was still smiling as he pulled up to the Pump and Git and off-loaded a frightened little orphan calf. It was, he assured Shadetree Mike, a major step on the road to a golden retirement.

A few days later my buddy came leading his bovine ward down the lane to my cabin. “Rusty,” he pleaded, “you’ve got to help me. I need to find a home for Annie.”

Baker gave Shadetree Mike that special snarl that she saves just for him, and then wandered over, tail-a-wagging, to take a whiff or two of the calf.

“Best place to keep beef,” I told Mike, “is in the freezer.”

“No can do, Rusty. Annie’s been with me a week. She’s family.”

“And why can’t family stay at your place?”

“Because,” he explained, “Ermine ain’t warmed to the situation. At first Annie bawled all night, so we got the vet over.”

“And?” I prodded.

“He said she was just lonesome and scared. Someone needed to sit up with her at night like her mama would have done.”

“Did it work?”

“For a couple of nights, but then Ermine got so run down that she couldn’t manage the business. And the flies bothered our customers. Do you have any idea how hard it is to run a calf through the car wash?”

Before I could conjure up a picture of Mike (or, more likely, Ermine) pulling young Annie through the Auto Sudser, Mike landed his knockout punch. “Rusty, the Little Woman says she won’t go on picking up after two dumb animals. One of us, Annie or me, has to find a place to stay.”

Baker’s mothering instincts kicked into gear. She took the lead rope in her teeth and escorted Annie around back to the shed. The old hound had gained a companion, and everyone else walked away a winner: Shadetree Mike got to keep his meal ticket, Ermine cut her work load in half, and Farmer Harris developed the kind of contented smile that can only come from deflating a windbag!

And Rusty?

Well, as I turned to walk back to the cabin, my boot landed squarely in Annie’s calling card – so it looks like I wound up with my usual!

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