Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cletus and Zeke in Fairdealing, Missouri

Cletus and Zeke showed up at the farmhouse shortly after the sun rose.

They were helping out a friend. It had been twenty years since he had been able to spend the entire firearm season "at the cabin" with his family.

It was no coincidence that was exactly how long Curtice and Nora Osman had been raising cattle.

Cletus and Zeke were going to feed the cattle and then take off for their town job, which is where they had met Curtice.

Entering the farmhouse they were met with the sound of frying bacon, sausage and the smell of brewing coffee. "Come into the kitchen, guys." Nora hollared.

Sitting at the table they could hear the hiss of hashbrowns frying in an enormous, cast iron skillet.

Nora was a wee slip of a thing. In her stocking feet she was four feet, five and three-quarter inches tall. You fight for and embrace every quarter inch when you are less than five feet tall.

"We will grab that after we run the hay out to the cattle." Cletus said.

"Gottem fed. Sit down and eat." Nora commanded.

They had fed the cattle with Curtice the day before and it was a fifty minute evolution. Feeding the cattle involved:
  • Spearing a big, round bale of hay marshalled outside the pasture. 
  • Running it into the pasture with the big, four-wheel-drive tractor. 
  • Getting off the tractor and wading through the nine inch deep gumbo and cutting the strings off the bales. 
  • Stripping off the strings. 
  • Punching the cattle pushing against you to get to their breakfast in the nose so they didn't push you down in the shitty mud. 
  • Getting back on the tractor. 
  • Drop the bale into the feeder. 
  • Lather, rinse, repeat four more times
They looked out the sliding glass door to where the boots were stored. The bottoms of Nora's swampers were not covered with 12" of organic matter and gumbo.

Zeke asked "YOU fed them?" Her face was not even red.

"Yup." Nora said, neatly flipping a two inch slab of browned hashbrowns and cracking eggs into the space she had freed up.

"Magic?" Cletus asked.

"Almost." Nora said. "Technology. I stayed on the tractor and snapped the strings one-at-a-time with the hay spear BEFORE I ran it into the pasture. The strings stayed on the ground when I lifted up the bales."

"It is stupid to get off the tractor and use a knife when you can use a 45 horsepower diesel." Nora said.

"I drove a school bus for twenty years. Weren't no big thing compared to driving a bus full of kids down an icy mountain road." Nora said.

Watching her sure handling of the spatulas and skillets, Cletus and Zeke had no doubt that she could make the hydraulics of the Kubota tractor dance.

Nora insisted that they come each morning so she could feed them. After all, Curtice was paying for them out of his fun-money account and she wanted them to earn their pay.


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