This all happened about a year after the family had sold its comfortable suburban home and bought some land in the foothills near Lenoir, NC.
They had a small frame house with ceilings a little higher than six feet, several outbuildings, and some rich, tillable acres of earth. They had bought the farm and the farm life — a life of working all day. For them, it was a small price to pay, such is their love for the land and the life they lead.
We’ll call the young man Daniel and the woman, Suzanne. There are two children, who radiate the love they have been given. They have clear blue eyes and almost always pay close attention to whatever is going on. The family has a beautiful, organically grown, and mulched garden, some chickens who roam the yard, a few beehives, and a dog, Skipper. One day they decided to get a milk cow.
They went to the old man who had helped them get set up in the beginning. He said, yes, it was time for them to have a cow. He gave them one of his own six heifers.
The family called the cow Sally and loved it as a member of the family right up to the day it died.
“Dan! Dan!” Suzanne yelled as she beat her way up the path to the house.
He knew right away, of course, that something awful had happened. “What’s wrong?” he shouted.
“The cow,” she panted. “The cow is dead. Hurry!”
“Oh Lord,” he prayed, as he trotted down the hill. “Oh Lord.” It was no use. The cow lay bloated in the shallow stream, its eyes open and dull. The shock passed quickly, but they felt sadness and shame for having let the cow die. They made their way back to the house slowly, trying to collect their thoughts.
Daniel found the old man at his brother’s saw mill. He was planing boards, sighting down the run as the boards slipped through the mill, smooth and sharp. It made a deafening noise.
“The cow has drowned in the stream,” Daniel shouted.
The old man looked up, switched off the machine.
“The cow has drowned in the stream,” Daniel repeated as the machine whirred to a stop.
“Eh?” said the old man. “Is it dead?”
“Is it dead?” shouted Daniel, in frustration. “Of course it’s dead. When something drowns in the stream, that means it’s dead.”
“Hmm,” said the old man, running his hand along the smooth grain of a freshly milled board. “Why don’t you call the meat company in town, maybe they’ll come out and take it.”
The man at the meat company told Daniel to disembowel the cow as quickly as possible and they’d send a man to inspect it.
A little anxious, because he had never cut any animal bigger than a rabbit or a chicken before, Dan got a chain and rope, and with his old Dodge pickup dragged the cow out of the stream and up to an old hickory tree near the house. Then he hoisted it up on the first strong branch so its front hooves were just a few inches off the ground. By this time a few neighbors had heard of the catastrophe and had come down to offer a hand.
When Dan walked up to the cow with the big kitchen knife all eyes were on him. He didn’t pause, just hit her smack in the stomach with that big sharp knife.
He knew right away he had made a mistake. He knew right away because that big bloated cow exploded and knocked him to the ground, covering him with the most incredible shit ever created by God or man.
Suzanne got to him first and wiped the gore out of his eyes with her sleeve.
Later that day the man from the meat company came by and said the cow was worthless. A neighbor came with a back hoe and buried it.