Monday, March 24, 2014
A Fine Country Morning
My bed was pushed under the eaves at the top of the stairs. The steps were narrow, wooden and of uneven lengths. My uncle Roy had replaced the outside door and stairs by framing in this newer staircase inside, and I was grateful to not have to go outside when I went to bed. In winter it was frosty upstairs without any heat, but in summer it was sultry and stuffy, like tonight.
There was one small window beside my bed, but it wasn't big enough to catch any stray breezes. I lay on top of the covers on the bed and listened to the silences of a night on the farm. Sometime after midnight I finally fell asleep, awakening to the roosters' crowing and the smell of strong coffee from the kitchen below. After listening and enjoying the roosters crows for a few minutes I jumped up and knelt on the wooden floor planks beneath the window. The soft grey pre-dawn began to lighten to the rosy glow of a summer morning. The animals were stirring, as another July day began on the farm. I knew uncle Roy was up and aunt Joyce was busy in the kitchen.
The trees looked freshly green against the pale blue dawn sky and the grass looked dewy. It all felt so good...to be alive with all the possibilities of the day stretched out before me. My uncle banged the screen door below as he left the house. I watched him follow the dirt path to the gray barn, carefully unlatching and then re-latching the gate. One of the roosters came running to the attack as usual, and received a swift kick from his work boot, also as usual. The hens, geese and ducks surrounded him as he threw the grain down in the hen yard, then he disappeared through the barn door.
I hurried to pull on some cut-offs, an old tee shirt and some tennis shoes, before jumping down the stairs, kissing my aunt on the cheek as she stood at the sink, and then taking my turn to bang the back screen door shut. I ran to the barn and slipped into the dark cool interior, the strong scent of fresh hay tickling my nose. As my eyes adjusted, I saw my uncle seated on his three-legged stool in front of Bossy, the brown cow. His sure hands pulled rhythmically on her pink teats, and the ringing sound of the milk streams hitting the tin pail filled the barn. The barn cats prowled around the stool, and every so often he would shoot a stream of warm milk at one of them, hitting their face and they would have the fun of licking it up. Bossy's calf was in the stall next to her, and was still curled up asleep in the hay.
I asked Uncle Roy what we were going to do that day, and he told me he needed my help in the hay field. He wanted me to drive his old '57 pick-up pulling the hay wagon behind it, and we would start right after breakfast. When he finished the milking we walked back to the house with the pail of warm milk, the thick cream rising to the top. He poured it into the separator and my aunt ladled out some of that thick rich cream for our coffee. We settled onto the benches in the dinning nook, and ate our scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage with the pleasure that comes from knowing it was all home-grown goodness. The sun was up now over the horizon and the early rays were slanting through the white ruffled curtains around us.
It's been 43 years since that morning, but I have never forgotten the sense of well-being that pervaded my spirit, the joy of living and the joy the city girl felt at being outdoors in the country.