Tuesday, February 26, 2008
So, today I went on the sheep hunt. Drove up and down the creek looking for them and hollering “Mutton!!! Chops!!!” out the window of the jeep.
Gave up, stopped at the neighbor’s house and was about to leave when I glance out the bathroom window and there they were. Okay, so I go out there with a feed bag and a bucket of feed I’ve been carrying around for just such a purpose. The wind is blowing and it’s pissing rain, but I almost get them—when Roadblock Horse comes up. Yes, the very same overly friendly horse who stopped the jeep this past fall. Roadblock Horse thinks the feed should be rightfully his. He and Mutton face off and the horse turns. Mutton actually tries to sniff Roadblock Horse’s butt.
I back off at this point since I really don’t want to witness Mutton getting his head kicked by Roadblock Horse. Roadblock Horse being entirely in the rights since sheep are in his pasture. So, I try again tomorrow and will drive the jeep up to that spot. Scott has offered to go with me to hold the horses but I’m sort of afraid he will scare the sheep. Sheep are funny that way.
It’s been snowing. Some of it stuck.
Today’s story features a cameo of another member of my Appalachian hedge witch family, the Truholts.
Some nights, the way things worked out--the way they happened--gets all mixed up and confused. There were strange things out there on the mountain and some nights, they creep inside like a gut shot polecat crawling under the house.
I remember Momma grabbing her stomach and her water breaking in the kitchen while she cooked supper. She dropped the skillet of cornbread on the floor and Lucy grabbed it without thinking and burnt her hand. Momma was real bad off but not so bad she couldn't tell Lucy she would get a switching for saying the bad word she did.
Lucy ran to her side and helped support Momma saying, "Oh yeah? I think you have some other business to attend to just now."
The girls got Momma back to the bedroom while my brother, Clue, rode off to bring Granny Truholt to attend to Momma. Us boys sat down with Poppa to wait out the screaming and groaning that was coming from the bedroom. Each sound she made cut through us like a scythe through tall grass. Daddy couldn't stand it so he went out to the barn.
I could hear him stomping through the mud outside and slamming the barn door behind him. My brothers and I all looked at each other and winced when Momma screamed again. Lucy charged out of the door to the bedroom to grab a pan of hot water, hissing at us, "Is she here yet? Is Granny Truholt here yet?"
Like she appeared out of nowhere, summoned by Lucy's question, Granny Truholt opened the door with Clue behind her. Never heard those Truholts when they walked, they were funny that way.
Then Daddy came in behind Clue saying, "Boys, Miss Cuddy's ready to have her calf, I need you outside."
We all jumped, happy to have something to do to get away from Momma's hollering. The Granny was there now and the womenfolk would take care of it.
Out in the barn, Miss Cuddy, our best milker lay on her side groaning. It was easier to hear than Momma's and it looked like she had gone down about an hour ago. It's better if the cow drops her calf standing--quicker too--and we all were afraid something was wrong. We took turns holding her head, speaking real soft to her and moved bales where she could use her legs to push with.
We stood back on the edge of the stall and watched, hoping she'd push that calf out soon. Her big ole eyes watered and looked up at us like she was begging us to do something. I heard Momma scream from inside the house, the sound carrying all the way out to the barn and tried to close my ears. Tried to pay attention to the cow going through the sort of agony Momma was going though.
Daddy washed his arms and hands then greased them down. He got down on the ground behind Miss Cuddy and reached his arm up in her. His eyes closed as they always did when he went inside like that, trying to feel what was wrong so he could turn the calf or push it back into position so the feet could come first. I watched him as he groped around, longer than he usually did. His face changed, his eyes flew open and he pulled out of the cow like she burnt him.
"Daddy, what's wrong?"
"Get the gun--go get the gun."
Clue ran off like he always did, never questioning, but I did, "What, Daddy--what you need the gun for?"
He shook his head, "We gotta put her down, no way in hell she can deliver that thing and it's too big to cut up. She'll die first."
We all just stood there looking at Daddy and Miss Cuddy lying there all glassy eyed. We heard the first cries of a baby from inside the house and the screen door slam as Clue came running with the gun.
"Granny Truholt says they's twins! Momma's having twins!" Clue handed the gun over to Daddy and grinned real wide at us all.
Daddy went around to Miss Cuddy's head, gave her a pet then shot her in the head. She twitched something fierce then stilled and we heard the sound of a second baby screaming from the house.
Daddy handed the gun back to Clue and ran to the house. It was like he was afraid of something, not just like he couldn't wait to see if the babies and Momma were okay. He grabbed Granny Truholt and pulled her outside. My brothers all crowded in to see the babies, but I followed Daddy outside. He took Granny into the barn over to where Miss Cuddy lay.
I listened as he said, "I need to know what it means. The calf--it had two heads."
"Mayhap mean nothing, Reg. Nothing at all. But to be on the safe side, you take that two-headed calf out of there and save its head. Don't let nothing happen to it. Ever."