Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear
A ranch woman who is also a Grandmother, or would that be a Grandmother who is also a ranch woman? Either way, grandchildren receive an education in the basics of life when they help out on a ranch. The edification starts practically in the cradle.
Which brings me to the story of little Jacob and Jill, brother and sister born a measly 13 months apart. By the age of three for Jill and four years for Jacob, they knew a lot about cow critters, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, varmints, bugs and cow posies.
The day they visited Grandma was also the day the Veterinarian (Uncle Joe) came out to pregnancy test a bunch of young heifers. Naturally, Jacob and Jill “helped.” And naturally their inquiring minds spit out many questions.
Jacob: “Grandma, how come Uncle Joe has poo on his shoulder.”
Grandma: “A-well, it’s part of his job.”
Jill to Grandma: “Why is Uncle Joe sticking his hand in the cow’s hinder?”
Grandma: “Er-well, he’s checking to see if she’s got a calf growing inside her.”
As kids do, Jacob and Jill accepted the answers calmly. No deep analysis needed.
The preg testing went smoothly partly because of the hydraulic chute. Instead of having to leap to close the gate behind a critter, electricity did the job. Saved a lot of sweat. The chute door panels, naturally, had a space wide enough to allow Uncle Joe to insert his hand and arm between them and onward into the correct cow orifice (and get poo on his shoulder some of the time). Jill and Jacob watched closely. The chute gate, like a pair of little wings, opened wide. A cow, encouraged from the rear and entered the chute. The chute gate slid shut behind her.
By the end of the day, two kidlets had acquired a coating of dirt and a plop or two of poo. Bath time for the pair. In the bathroom, instead of shower curtains, glass panels enclosed the tub. The panels shut like a sliding door, the edges meeting in the middle. Grandma ran a tub of water; Jill and Jacob climbed in. Grandma slid the panels not quite closed and left to go fetch the children’s pajamas.
Returning moments later, she was about to step inside when she heard Jill say, “It’s my turn to preg test. Grandma’s gray hair (under the brown hair dye) turned whiter. For a second she froze. She offered up a brief prayer. What in the world might be going on? How should she handle it?
Pasting a neutral smile on her face, she entered the bathroom just as Jacob advised, “Okay, I’ll work the chute, you test.” As Jacob slid the panels slightly apart, Jill poked her arm through up to her shoulder, flapped her hand and withdrew.
“There,” said Jacob. “Now it’s my turn. You work the chute.”
As mentioned above, kids are observant little creatures. Jacob and Jill were practicing “preg testing.” How? Well, anybody knows you have to “work the chute doors” to do the job right!
Grandma’s pasted on smile turned into a very relieved grin.
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