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THE RELUCTANT FARMER OF WHIMSEY HILL

A Memoir by Bradford M. Smith
with Nancy Raven Smith & Lynn Raven


 

HOW NOW BLACK COW

1971

            If a black cow crosses your path, is that worse luck than a black cat?
            I’m not a superstitious man. And yet, here I stand in the middle of the road about a mile away from our farm in rural Virginia wearing my best navy pinstriped suit. Doesn’t sound like such bad luck, does it?
            But if this were a good news, bad news thing, that would actually be the good news. The bad news lies at the other end of the thick rope I'm clutching in my hands. That’s where it circles the neck of a Black Angus steer named Pork Chop.
            There’s no doubt in my mind that this unruly beast was put on earth to torment me.
            My family disavows all connection to Pork Chop. They refer to him as 'my cow,' as in, "Honey, your cow’s out" or "Daddy, your cow needs to be fed." Somehow this animal has managed to alienate my entire family. Not an easy feat with a family as besotted and overrun with animals as mine is.
            But for once, Pork Chop is not being rowdy. Actually, quite the opposite. He’s lying on his side with all four feet stuck out stiffly. He looks dead, but he’s just asleep. I can see his chest rising and falling steadily. Dead might be easier to deal with.
            Judging by the long shadows cast by the nearby pine trees, it’ll be dark soon. Pork Chop weighs nearly 600 pounds and there’s no way I can move him on my own. As much as I’d like to, I can’t leave him lying in the road to go for help. He could be injured or cause an accident. But if I don’t go for help, who knows how long I’ll be standing here. Pork Chop isn’t my family’s favorite animal, yet they’ll never speak to me again if he gets hurt.
            A honk shatters the quiet. A neighbor slows down in his dusty, battered Ford pick-up. I raise my hand to wave him down. He waves back and drives on. I can see him snickering via his rear view mirror. Our working farm neighbors don’t know what to make of me. I'm still the outsider who works nine to five for the Federal Government.
            I can understand their confusion. The country is not my habitat of choice. As a Boston native and a Cornell graduate with a Masters in Electrical Engineering - order, logic, and cleanliness matter to me. The robots I work with suit me perfectly. When I program them, they do what they’re supposed to. Robots never pee, poop, bite, kick, or drag me where I don’t want to go.
            Unfortunately my wife's animals do.

 

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