It’s been a week since I resumed some barn chores since ‘the break’. Milking has finally sorted itself out, Bonnie is back to her sweet angelic self, munching her hay while I milk. Haven’t been kicked for a couple days. Not even this morning when the time change gave me the excuse to sleep in a bit, getting milked an hour later didn’t bother her in the least. Whew! It is so NOT fun to sit under an unhappy cow. It offers that weird conundrum of having to be a calm bull’s eye. Egads! What did I just write!? I will be right back once I know.
Okay, I googled it, and here is what I found on Yahoo Answers!
“The English longbow yeomen were directed to practice frequently, and it has been stated that there was often a practice held immediately after church services in small hamlets, the only time during the week when many of the archers would gather. A common target was the white skull of a bull, and the greatest skill could be illustrated by getting a “bull’s eye”.
Another common shooting term derives from this activity, when the archer is far from the target, the arrow must be pointed high, due to the arched trajectory of an arrow. When the archer is very close to the target, then he may point directly, without aiming above the white bull’s skull, hence “pointing at the white”, or “point blanc” as it was stated in those times. The term is now an established military term, “point blank” range, or the distance at which a firearm can be directly aimed at the target without consideration of the arched trajectory. Modern firearms often have a point blank range of a few hundred yards. ”
Hmmmm… very interesting. So here I am saying I have to be a calm bull’s eye… it’s funny how these terms come to mind without any point of reference for them. Now I’ve totally distracted myself from my point, which was being calm when being vulnerable. It is hard! What I have found with cows is that you can’t respond with tension. One day this week I lost my temper; the milking had been going okay, a few tail whacks to the ole nose, but no kicking and then Kapow! she kicked me in the rib cage – hard. Off my bale of hay. Granted, I am not the most balanced milker at the moment and I was more concerned about protecting my leg than balancing my seat, so off I went. I came up MAD. I gave her a good whack and said NO!!! She kicked at me again and again and again. I yelled, NO! and NO! and NO!, I let the first few kicks pass – then grabbed her leg and held on. She is a little cow, so this is not as exciting as it might have been if she were a twelve hundred pound animal. I held her leg and quietly told her this just can’t happen. She gave me another good whack with her tail. Evening the score sort of thing. We finished the milking, not in peace, rather a reluctant truce. Neither of us happy.
No cream in my coffee from that milking.
Twelve hours between milkings gives a person time to calm down. When my babies were babies I’d sing to them and to myself through the stressful moments. At bedtime that meant rounds upon rounds of Hush Little Baby or Baby Beluga. In the daytime that meant either Garth Brooks or Annie Lenox,. Mind you I can’t sing worth a hoot but it usually worked. So the next milking I started to sing Hush Little Baby to Bonnie. Couldn’t do it. Too tense. Counting works wonders, too. I ditched the singing and started counting, in French. The need to focus is greater, the calming results faster. I forgot all the forties entirely and messed the seventies up pretty badly, perhaps beyond recognition. A lot was tumbling around in my head. I did not want to get kicked off the bale again – a) it hurts, and b) it makes my milking with a broken leg SO not a joke. As my brother said when I sent him the pic of me milking,” there is a fine line between stupid and hard” – and I was starting to think I had crossed it.
What on earth am I going to do if this cow can’t be milked? Get the calf back? Get rid of her? Dry her up? Buy a machine?
It’s hard to shut up inner dialogue and be in the moment. By the time I got to the nineties in French I could feel hints of calmness returning to me. I ditched the count in favor of making up my own song. It went something like this,
“Here I am milking my little cow,
my little cow,
my little cow, my little cow,
Here I am milking my little cow,
so early in the morning,
this is the way we milk a cow,
milk a cow,
milk a cow, milk a cow,
this is the way we milk a cow
so early in the morning!
Here I am milking the one white teat,
the one white teat,
the one white teat, the one white teat,
here I am milking the one white teat,
so early in the mornnnn-ing!
Now we milk the little black teat,
the little black teat, the little black teat,
Now we milk the little black teat,
so early in the morning,
Now she whacks me with her tail,
with her tail,
with her tail, with her tail
now she whacks me with her tail,
so early in the morning.”
Pretty soon both Sarah and I were laughing. And yes – the rest of the milking went fine.
That was all a few days ago. After that there have been good milkings and okay milkings. Then we had that warm day, Thursday. In a farmer’s life, warm means flies, and flies mean switching tails, and switching tails hurt. I’ve tried tying up Bonnie’s tail in the past, this just makes her really mad, she stomps and moves around – A LOT. Fly bites hurt and the tail is a very effective tool against them. I can’t blame her.
Thursday night the milking went okay, I took some hard whacks to the head but oh well. We made it through it. My husband had work issues and was in a bad mood. But we made it through it. That night I didn’t sleep well, the cast was loose and uncomfortable, my leg throbbed, my shoulders and neck were in knots from the crutching around, from the weird milking position, from the weird sleeping position, but I made it through it. The dog had leaned on my bad leg and hurt it. I wanted to cry, but I hadn’t cried once during this whole saga and I wasn’t about to start crying six days into it. My upbringing had never suggested that one should, or even could, cry over spilt milk, the mantras in my family were: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves; No Pain, No Gain; You Gotta Be Mentally Fit To Be Physically Fit, You Gotta Be Physically Fit To Be Mentally Fit; MIND OVER MATTER ; What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger; etc- all those wonderful New England/Yankee ways to the tenth degree. I was not going to start crying now.
I sat down to milk. My wonderful assistant Sarah was tending to the pigs and the chickens. I settled in to wash Bonnie’s udder and WHACK! Her tail, not the nice fluffy end of it – the bone of it, hit me in the forehead. I cussed under my breath. Then KA-WHACK! that Gosh-Darn-Dang tailbone hit the end of my nose.
I burst into tears.
And sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Poor Sarah. She knelt and hugged me. Mothered her mother. Petted my hair, told me it was all going to be okay. Petted my hair some more. I had myself a good old fashion cry. Then I milked my cow. I angled my head into Bonnie’s body so the tail-whacks missed me or hit the back of my head. By the end of the milking I was leaning heavily on Bonnie and she was leaning heavily on me. When I finished I slowly pulled away so she wouldn’t fall over. Ahhh…
I’d love to say the milkings have been flawless since then; they haven’t been bad, last night and this morning was flawless but they haven’t all been great. What I will say is this, it never ceases to amaze me how my cow makes me the best version of me. When I left the barn that tear-filled morning I left it with a new sense of power and hope. I left it feeling like I had won, I had been pushed hard, I had cried, but I done the job I meant to do, and I had done it well.