By Kristen S. Sandoz
A handsome, dark haired, deep eyed boy ran frantically into his family’s farm house. “Father! Father!” he yelled.
His father’s looming figured darkened the door way to the kitchen scanning the boys muddy clothes.
“The cows were supposed to be in the barn an hour ago.” He said in a quiet sort of growl.
“But father, I…” the boy began.
“I don’t want excuses boy. I want obedience. Now come here.” His eyes were foreboding and his face was hard as he began to remove his belt.
“Father, please, the cow…” the boy tried again.
“Now!” barked his father.
The boy knew there was no arguing, it would only make it worse. He stepped forward and took his whipping as bravely as any seven year old boy could have. Then he climbed the stairs to his room, where he would spend the rest of the evening without supper. Through his window he watched his father head out toward the pasture to finish his job. A light rain began to fall, but no tears fell down the boy’s solemn face. His job was to bring in the cows and he had failed.
The father was in a dark mood. He was not a tall man but he was broad and muscular like a tree trunk. He had lived a hard life leaving home when he was fifteen to work on a logging crew. Even so, whipping his children was not his favorite task and yet, it was necessary. With four daughters, only one son, and twins on the way there was little room for lack of discipline. On a small family farm everyone had to pitch in to make a living. Seven year old boys had to learn to carry their load.
He stormed passed the barn and headed down the hill to the lower pasture. He could see some of
the cows grazing near the creek at the bottom of the hill. Bringing the cows in from pasture was A job even a seven year old could do. Usually, they’d come with little encouragement knowing a warm barn and food were waiting for them. Today they were reluctant to move along. The father gently cooed them forward as he walked behind them toward the creek trying to scoop them a little closer together.
That’s when he heard it, a strange heavy panting coming from the creek. He walked to the bank and peered down. He caught his breath. One of the cows had fallen into the creek and couldn’t get up. Its head was barely above the water line and the cow was in a panic. Signs of a struggle were all about. Mud along the bank had been matted down. Branches from the tree close by were broken. It was clear the cow would drown if something wasn’t done immediately.
The man clambered down the bank and rested a hand on the cow’s hind quarters and spoke soothingly to it. He reached her head and even his toughened heart sank to his stomach at what he found. He knew instantly it was the boy and all the pieces fell together, why he was late, his muddy clothes, the frantic look, the back talking. The boy had done his job or at least he had tried. He had come upon the same cow in the creek and did his best at trying to help the cow up. But her 2,000 lbs was too much for his small seven year old frame. Somehow the boy knew if he left the cow alone even for a couple of minutes to get help that she would die. So he formed and executed an ingenious plan. The boy found a sturdy branch on the tree with a “Y” in it. He broke the branch off at just the right length. He shoved the end into the mud under the cows head and placed the “Y” under her neck lifting her head out of the water just enough for her to breath. Then he ran.
After an hour or so the boy watched his father through his bedroom window walk slowly back to the house. Did his father find the cow? Did his plan work or was it too late? He heard the farm house door creek open and slam shut. He heard is father’s deep low voice saying something indistinguishable to his mother in the kitchen. Then he heard his father’s heavy plodding footsteps climb the farm house stairs. The boy turned to the bedroom door and froze. Something was wrong. His father never came upstairs. He stood motionless and watched with Jersey sized dark brown eyes as his bedroom door opened. His father stepped into the room an unreadable look upon his face. Without any words his father stepped forward grabbed the boy by the arm and lifted him onto his shoulders.
It was at least a mile walk into town but the father tirelessly carried his son all the way stopping only to buy his son an ice cream cone before heading back to the farm in the same manner. Although no words were spoken the boy knew what his father meant. He knew his father had found the cow and that it was because of his seven year old plan that she was still alive. The boy felt happy. He had done his job and his father was proud of him. He knew, too, that this was his stern yet loving father’s way of saying what he did not have the words to say, “I’m sorry”.
I wonder what family stories have effected your life? Please share. I'd love to hear about them. Then share them with the Littles in your life.