Winter Feeds

Yesterday, while working from my impromptu vet-clinic office, my dad called me. “You should probably put on some warm clothes. I need some help with that water main and we need to feed the cows.” he said. I cannot say that I was surprised by the pronouncement, but I did have to laugh. Dad’s edicts of “Put on some warm clothes” generally means that your day is about to get really cold while performing some nasty outdoor task for which you generally only feel that family is suitable for doing. I rounded up available gear, slathered on some heavy-duty chapstick, and headed out. Here is the resulting wardrobe change.

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Erin, Dressed for Hoth

And yes, I know that I sort of look like a round, brown penguin, but once cold weather hits, no one cares if you look cute. I spent much of yesterday dressed like this: four undershirts/sweatshirts/jumper, the reject flap hat in the break room, the Australian Outback jacket that I often reappropriate when up in Montana because it cuts the wind (except yesterday, which was just brutal), mismatched mittens that didn’t do squat, and green uglies that I swiped from one of the vet techs. Sexy, not so much, but it did keep me from freezing to death.

We then made our way over to the horse barn to get the Valdez, the ancient ’70s pickup that my father adores. It was named after the mid-’80s oil spill up in Valdez, Alaska, because the truck tends to burn quite a bit of oil (so yes, the name is appropriate). It was old when I was a kid, and Dad has given it several heart–nee engine–transplants over the years to keep it going. I swear the Valdez is held together by duct tape and rust, but one of its big saving graces is that the heater and the defrost still work, plus it has a hydraulic lift that makes it possible to feed these enormous bales. Since Dad and the Valdez are one, I figure it best to let him start it and back out of the barn. Here is the butt-end view of my work.

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The Valdez, Fully Loaded

From here it was a drive over to the river pasture where my parents keep the ornamental longhorns and a few of the spare horses. Comedy then ensued as my dad’s sign language of “go around and get in the truck” looked an awful lot like “don’t open the gate so far–move it back!”

We drove out to the far end of the river pasture, near where Bridger’s old dance hall used to be. I remembered that the racehorse trainers found an 1896 silver dollar down in that area once when they did the springtime harrow of the new track. Dad popped the get-along, I flung it up over the bales, and then he cut the baling twine for me. (I am still a disappointment as I don’t carry my own knife.) Dad got back in the truck then and kept it in low, driving slowly so that I could peel of flakes as he inched southward. Horses and cattle alike were glad to see me. And for the record, I only fell down once when I accidentally stepped on the twine while trying to step over some hay.

My dad, ever thoughtful, snapped a photo of me in my winter finery and sent it on to my husband with the caption, “She’s all yours.” Joel responded with “Keep the woman and send the longhorn.” Funny men, both of them. Next time, I’ll sacrifice Joel to the cold weather and the Valdez. I’ll just have to get him to leave the confines of Austin to do it!

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