Monday, March 21, 2011

Calling all Cows - Wood Ticks, Nettle and Fun

Being surrounded by forest and stream has a lifelong impact on a person. Have you ever seen a cow evaporate? I have.

I grew up in northern Wisconsin, on a farm in logging country. The place was bordered thousands of acres of forest; white pine, hardwoods, and pople. It was a family farm passed through generations.

As the oldest of five farm kids I grew up with responsibility. Daily chores like going to get the cows, feeding cows, milking cows, and cleaning barns were compounded with seasonal chores like making crops and fixing aged machinery.

The cows were the center of our chore filled responsibility; the daily routine.

Chores could overflow and ruin summer vacation, we quickly learned, you needed to use your 'imagination'.

Somehow, through some magic, we discovered 'the cows' guarded the secret keys to the 'woods'.  They knew the art of escape, they wandered all the secret places. Getting the cows, became our code word for escape.

Are you ready to go yet?

Each morning, they leisurely wandered pastures then disappeared each afternoon. They just evaporated. Where did they go? Something about the scorching sun and insect torment, brought them into our woods. Each afternoon, we quickly followed.

The woods offered countless hideouts; easy escapes from the summer sun into cool backwaters filled with frogs and turtles waiting to be caught and exalted.  Any sideline to provide a break from the chore filled routine and a kernel of recreation. Adventure lurked in hidden glens, teaming with interesting insects and poison plants to avoid!

We'd have to search and return them before milking,  it was our job. They were our bovine mentors, teaching the art of camouflage, sharing the coordinent of each silent and forgotten location they chose to frequent. Each day, that was the drill.

We quickly learned to linger with them in the leisure and coolness of the woodland shade. Stealing time to  look for hazel nuts, chase the noisy red squirrels and befriend chipmunks of all sizes.

Always too soon, the low afternoon sun woke the kamikasi deer flies and jolted us away from this idyllic dream.

Slowly, ever so slowly, we meandered out of the woods and into open pasture, looking to intersect some familiar cow path and continue progress, channeling milk into cheese and returning a milk check.

What a trick, through chores, the woods opened its many secrets, full of opportunities to exploit as we searched for each kernel of recreation.

It was only natural that I begin to fish, hunt, and trap. But those are different stories!


WDSTK3 said...

Reminds me of growing up on ranches in the brushy foothills of California where I learned the "fine art" of catching and trapping wild cattle from my Father. I later used that learning to do the same thing on the brush covered islands along the North Platt in Nebraska and in the brushy, swampy pastures of Whatcom County, WA. Sure was fun...when one is young and foolish and don't weaken. LOL

John Delaney said...

Hey WD, you know the drill! Somebody once told me "it's a great life if you don't weaken". Sounds like you might have known that same hombre!