There was a red milk cow. Her name was "Bossy". She shared the barn with the other animals. She eventually gave birth to a black calf that I immediately named Dennis. She then took sick with milk fever (?). My dad and the neighbor man tried to save her. They even cut her tail open and put salt and pepper in it and bound it up. That was sure to cure her. Unfortunately, it did not. Dennis took sick soon after and I think that was because he had no mother to feed him. He also died, which broke my heart.
There was a brown horse named "Danny" that was my sister Josephine's. It was her's because that was the meanest damned horse in the world and she was the only one who could ride him. The rest of us kids were relegated to a Shetland pony whose name was "Star". Dad would put one of us up on his back and then lead him around the corral. I never did like either Star or the rides so I mostly hid out when that was going on. The little kids got a kick out of it though.
My Dad had a big scar on his upper arm (think that is called a bicep). (For this reason I have always been afraid of horses thinking that one might bite me.) It dated back to when he was in the Army (World War 1). He was in the Cavalry. His job was to tend the horses and one bit him. I knew my father to be a very mean man sometimes. He never mistreated us kids physically, but he did tend to mistreat animals. One of the things used to control horses was a stick with a loop of rope on the end. The rope was put around the upper lip of a horse and twisted. The horse was then pretty much at the mercy of whoever held the stick. I do not remember what that thing was called. Of course there was a black snake whip that hung in the barn for when the horses were really out of control.
Dad had a fondness (more like an obsession) for show horses. They were not just show horses, they were work horses that were beautiful. My dad was one of the last people to give up the horse and plow. He would never buy one horse. He always bought a matched pair. The last matched pair he had was the only pair I even remember. They were Strawberry Roans. They were big and a light pinkish color. They had blonde tails and my father would stand for hours brushing them. When he went into town their tails were braided and he was a sight to behold. My father. (pause while a flood of memories leaves me in tears.)
The upper part of the barn was called the "hay loft." It was called that because that is where the hay was stored. That was also where the old cats went to have their kittens. When the cow was alive and we milked her, there was a bowl by her stall that was always filled with fresh milk at milking time. The one legged stool hung on a peg above it.
When the hayloft was filled with fresh hay, we had to check it periodically through the day. If some of the hay that went in the loft was not quite dry enough, it would heat up and if not turned to get air to cool it, burst into flame. First it started to smolder and usually we picked that up right away. We took the pitch fork and pulled that part of the hay stack out and threw it out the opening onto the ground where we spread it to cool, or burn if it was that hot. Lots of barns burned to the ground because of that little problem.
My dad was pretty much a share cropper and us kids were put into use real regular. Sometimes we went to wheat fields and pulled out the Rye that sprung up magically. If the elevator man found Rye in the load of wheat being sold, he would "dock" dad on the pay. Sometimes we harvested field corn. We picked the dry ears and stripped them in the field and then tossed them on the corn wagon. The corn wagon was just a horse drawn wagon with board added on the back side so the corn bounced off and landed back in the wagon with the rest of the corn. We picked rocks out of fields. We pulled weeds in the garden. Especially fun was cleaning the manure out of the barn and hauling it to the pile in the corner of the corral. We gathered eggs. Brought in fire wood. Carried out the trash. Made the beds. Washed the dishes. In the winter we tried to stay warm and in the summer we tried to stay cool.
One of my clearest memories is laying on my stomach by the chicken house with my brother and watching the "dead animal wagon" back up to the fence in front of the barn. The man pulled the wench chain out and over to the barn where he wrapped it around Star's neck. He hit the button and Star was unceremoniously drug up over the sill, across the pen, under the barbed wire fence and up into the back of the truck. My last memory of Star was seeing the truck pull onto the road and drive off with Star's legs sticking straight up into the air. Jake and I were very quiet the rest of the day and night. Then life resumed, just like there had never been a Shetland Pony named Star in our life.
And now I sit here with my memories. I see the house just as clearly today as I did then, only now I appreciate it more for it's simplicity. I see my brother in his overalls. The scar on his face was put there by Star many years before.
There are only 2 of us left now. I feel closer to the past then I do the future. I long for those days when I could feel the breeze on my arms and face. Back then I could not wait to grow up and get away. I wanted my own home. My own family. Well, I got it and here I set. If there is one thing I would tell the people I know it is this: Hold on to today, because today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes. I think they wrote a song about that.