In the Crook of her Neck

In the crook of her neck I can be…

The sky was gray and heavy with snow; brimming over in the last hour the flakes had begun to fall.  Darkness filled the sky early these days as we neared the Winter Solstice.

I slipped out of the house and headed for my favorite place, the barn.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught the twinkle of the Christmas lights that were strung on the big evergreen tree.  Standing tall and strong next to the farmhouse it was lit up every year for the holidays, a tradition.

I had watched the day unfold, and from my desk at school, I had anticipated this moment, waiting anxiously to get free from the tight quarters of a high school crowded with students, crowded with the laws of fitting in.

Clad in my favorite “out of school” attire, I didn’t worry about such things like matching, or the style of shoes on my feet. It didn’t matter if there was ‘Benetton’ scrolled across the front of my shirt or ‘Esprit’ hanging from my shoulder. 

What mattered was warmth, comfort, and practicality.

As I walked across the dirt driveway my black rubber Tingley’s danced with the cuff of my flannel lined jeans. Clomp, clomp, clomp, I headed to my place.

I could already see the steam rising from the center bunk, a mass of black and white lined up along its length. The creatures were methodically eating their way through the piles. Sorting, nosing… always the big boss cow swinging her head from side to side, pushing any other lowly sister cow away.

I lifted the latch and swung the big, heavy iron gate open into the alley of the freestall, letting it clank shut behind me.  I was immediately greeted by warmth and steam laced with the smells of fresh manure and silage… smells of home

 

Okay, where is she? 

 

Meandering my way slowly through the sea of black and white, I was careful and stepped quietly; I didn’t want to startle anyone and scare them away… but they were used to me, they knew me, they knew how I moved. 

And how is it, in the midst of this 200 cow freestall the nosy one could always pick me out quickly, as soon as I stepped in. Like my escort, she followed me… knowing where I was headed and who I was looking for: always the same girl, my girl.

On this day I had made it to the barn first. No workers, no other family yet, I was by myself with the cows, in the bigness of the barn.  It felt a little surreal, and made me feel a little tingly that rose up from within… I could finally shed the cloak of being 16 and all the ties that bound with it.  I was so happy here.

 

Okay, where are you?

 

Weaving my way further and further into the barn my senses came alive, heightened with awareness. I felt all the animals around me and their energy… all was peaceful, all was quiet an hour ahead of milking… nothing to be alarmed of today.   

Cuds were chewing, the girls were resting in their deep beds of sawdust. Soon Stanley would come through with his hoe, raking his way down to the end of the barn and around the feed bunk, heading them all to the holding area for the night milking.

I don’t see her yet… she must be laying in her favorite stall just before the alley to the maternity barn. I hope, I could use a sit with her.

Escort cow nudged me from behind and I turned. She stopped and looked behind herself and to the side; as if I didn’t know it was her flanking so close, reminding me she was there.

I heard the random plops, and the steady thrum of breaths being taken, in and out, in and out–it was its own rhythm, on this day, so close to Christmas.  These beings didn’t know all of the excitement and bustling that was taking place all around them, beyond these solid barn walls.

And then, a curtain of black and white parted, and there was my gray… chewing her cud peacefully, head up and alert.

The crook of her neck called me, like arms opening up for a big hug. She welcomed me and all of my teenage victories and troubles.

 

“There you are,” I say…

 

My heart swelled as I nestled myself, deep into the crook of her neck, moving ever so slightly to the steady up and down of her long, deep breaths, bringing me back to the place where I felt home.

And as the snow fell faster, and the day grew fainter, Toby and I had a sit.  I whispered to her all of my secrets from the day and all of my wishes for the future.  And that is where they stayed, safe, in the crook of her neck.

 

Kate Ziehm, President of Morning Ag Clips, is originally from New Hampshire. She is a 1997 Cornell University graduate with a degree in Animal Science and a concentration in Business Management and Marketing. Kate's love of agriculture began with her 4-H dairy cow project and has grown and diversified ever since. Wtih the birth of her children she turned her efforts to motherhood while she took the opportunity to broaden her knowledge and understanding of the agricultural industry. Since 2013 Kate has owned and operated the Morning Ag Clips, a daily e-Blast that gives the latest breaking local and national agricultural news to farmers and ag industry leaders across the United States. In addition she dabbles in writing to connect with her audience on the Just Me Kate page of the website. Currently Kate resides and works in Greenwich, NY with her 3 sons, Tyler, Jacob and Samuel. 

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