There is a story in every given moment on a farm. I've had first lines come to me all week. And had I a pen with me and a moment to spare they'd all have been worth the writing. Instead they are all gone. Almost all gone. Take barn boots as an example. My first thought was about wearing them. Yesterday. And I started a story to tell about them today. But the moment the words "barn boots" approached this page, I remembered a pair of pink ones I bought at Hansen's Agway a couple or three years ago. I loved them.
I had been in the story buying fence posts. There on a shelf was a pair of boots, barn boots, pink. In my size! I wrote out a check. There was also next to it, a child's pair. Pink. I saw in my mind's eye, a young farm wife, holding her little girl's hand both wearing pink boots, going to the bar to feed the calves. All over America. A touch of joyous color to remind her, however brief, of who she really was while walking through a mucky barnyard.
Hansen's Agway is no more. And I'm afraid there are fewer and fewer farm wives, with a child still at home, walking together to feed the calves. The boots finally tore at the heel. I pulled them off one day, annoyed with myself for still wearing them, (apt to become full of water every time I went to the brook), and tossed them. They remain hidden under the bush. Emerging only when I cut down the burdock around it. Somehow, I just can't put them in the trash.
Yesterday I wore barn boots to town. Town, in this case being the village of Delhi, rather than the city of Oneonta. I don't think I have ever done that. I'd been working in the carriage house. It is of most importance to me to get it in order for the winter. There shall be some goats boarded there and I want it neat and well functioning before they arrive. One is a buck who will need his own stanchion built. The other two are Nubian does. I have one as well. Fragile things at worst. Big tame dogs at best. My children used to call the Afghan hounds that they'd see on the streets of the city, Sylvia dogs. These Nubians look like those dogs. And have a similar carriage. There is a stout chance, but I'm not betting the ranch on it, that there will be a frost-free hydrant and electricity in there before the snow flies. We'll see.
I've a most beautiful chicken coop in the carriage house as well. It would function perfectly if I can get rid of both the egg eating possum and skunk. A Have-a-Heart trap is being lent to me by the Humane Society and my tenant has promised to release the animal(s) in the wild.
Jeff Arnold came to dig out the gravel that the Great Flood had deposited on my south pasture, and put it in the long ditch against the house made when the new foundation was built. I was in a particularly bad temper from some mishaps that had happened the day before and wanted off the farm even if only for a few minutes. Anything to break the mood. I hadn't watched carefully enough some work being done. It is my way to be ridiculously grateful that something desperately needed has been accomplished that I tend not to inspect the work well enough before the worker leaves. A situation had developed in the barnyard that allows the sheep an escape route. Again. Yesterday the illusion was created that the problem was solved. I was overjoyed. There is something about being overjoyed and then badly let down that is the worst for me. I needed a 50 pound bag of post cement to remedy the problem. I used it as an excuse to "get out of town". Or in this case get to town.
And so, wallet in hand, and barn boots on my feet, I jumped into the truck. "Let's go." Usually I wear neat little olive green rubber shoes around the farm. From Italy via Lee Valley. They are light weight. Compact. Permissible to wear to town. Keep feet dry but not socks in tall grass. However, they keep me reasonably off the manure in the barn and are not clunky in any way. I haven't had an intact pair of barn boots since the replacement ones I got after the pink boots fell apart, fell apart as well. Ten bucks in Walmart. Black. Heavy. Floppy. Not at all nice. But they functioned. Except when they stayed stuck in the mud (giving a new poignancy to the expression), and my foot came out leaving me standing on one foot, rainy days in the muddy barnyard. I hated them. Hated even more the thought of spending another ten dollars on something I didn't like.
And so it was with interest that I looked at a sturdy relatively non-descript pair of barn boots sitting in my mud room when the Martha Stewart people left after the shoot late spring. No phone call was heard about retrieving them. Neither a letter nor a note. Contrary to popular myth I do have e-mail and while most people who write one about the book do it in letters, I have been known to receive an e-mail or two from time to time. No one contacted me about the boots. After a month or two I tried them on. They fit. Only if I wear thin socks. But they fit.
I always shake boots out before wearing them. One day out came a few strands of sheep fleece and some chicken layer mash. Not much. But I hadn't put either thing in them. I shook them and hung them upside down. And couldn't bring myself to put them on again. Until yesterday.
It wasn't until I was climbing out of the truck that I realized I had gone to town wearing them. In part because they actually fit well enough for me to not be aware of them. In part because I was in a rotten mood.
You take longer strides when wearing barn boots. Something about the weight of them. They sort of knock you down if your stride is too short. Their weight throws your leg forward and your step becomes more assertive. It was a good feeling. "Post hole cement," I said. "One bag." "Only one bag," said the salesman. But I didn't feel diminished when I repeated, "only one. One." I walked around the hardware store. Found two brackets that are just what I need to make the barn door latch the way I want it to latch. At last, one of my old farm how-to books coming to the rescue. Again. Tried and true. I bought them. At the next store, for chicken grain, I got through a big muddy puddle right outside of the truck with dispatch. Perhaps even with élan. Big strides. "Farm exempt," I said. With satisfaction. No cloud over the sales person's eyes. As it sometimes does. As it usually does. I know I'll never cast off the city person aura that I have although this city person is not from the city but from New London, Connecticut, but it bothers me nonetheless some days to see the expression of disbelief that confronts me. At times. "I am a farmer." Yes.
I went to the grocery store. The chickens are in moult and I'd like a little protein in my diet. No, I'm not butchering them but there haven't been any eggs of late. It was there, pushing the cart, that I realized I was walking faster. The boots made my stride longer. I covered more territory in fewer steps. It felt great. I had bought a pair of white woolen mittens when in the feed store. And a newspaper in the grocery store. And a box of buy one, get one free cider donuts. One for one. One for Jeff Arnold who took me to town instead of shoveling gravel. I opened the box and ate one in the truck. Fast.
Somehow the day didn't seem so awful after all.
There are more stories in the Farm Stories Archive