Out of all the jobs I’ve worked I think “Rancher’s Assistant” was my favorite. My Grandfather McClung made it seem easy. As a pre teen my responsibility was to count the cattle a couple of times a day and check the fencing for any slack in the barbed wire. Even though I haven’t been involved with cattle for many years I still have an urge to take a head count anytime I see cows.
I miss the long walks out to repair a hole in the fence line. It was the conversations and time with my Grandfather that made it special to share work. And then there was O’l Count. My grandfather’s cattle dog. When it was time to rotate the pastures (moving the cattle from one paddock to the next) we would open up a gate and tell O’l Count to bring the cattle. Without fail he would gather the herd and drive them through.
Occasionally a mother cow or the bull would resist but the dog was way to quick and agile for what seemed like a slow motion attack. He would dodge to the side and circle back around to nip at their heels. Most of the time this wasn’t a requirement. We always fed the cows something special when we moved them and when they saw the gate open they would come running like pets.
The cattle my Grandfather raised didn’t look like the one in the feature image. They looked like the one below. They were Hereford cattle.
I believe that it’s a Lakenvelder bull in the feature image. The Lakenvelder is a dairy cow and it seem that the milk would be perfect for dipping Oreo cookies. 😉
Needless to say that when I pass by this herd on my way to my day job I have a nostalgic reaction to seeing them even though they’re not the breed I’m used to. Believe or not this breed is an endangered species. According to Wikipedia there are less than 300 of these cows in the United States and less than 1000 worldwide. Which of course makes it an extra special sight in the Appalachian Mountains.
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They always ask, “Do you remember where you were on September eleventh, Two Thousand and One?” Yes, yes I do. I was working for the prefab housing plant and we had been able to transfer to a new plant that was closer to home. The housing market was really starting to drop off and work was slow. We kept a radio on because the internet was barely off the ground and in rural West Virginia the only access was at a public library. We were taking our good sweet time to complete the day’s assignments. It’s nice to be able to knock off early occasionally but when it’s every day it really cuts into a paycheck. The radio signal was very weak and the static was horrible but we could enjoy the classic rock as we double and triple checked our measurements. Through the static and over the sound of the hammers and power saws we heard the words Plane…Hit…Tower. The line boss hit the emergency stop and the whole plant fell silent. We changed the station on the radio and redirected the antenna to pick up the AM news station. The details were starting to come in and one of my coworkers was drawing with his finger in the sawdust. Being curious I stepped over to look at what he drew. The numbers 911. That was about the time that the first tower collapsed.
The boss shut the lines down for the rest of the day but kept us on the clock with the excuse that he was calling for more blueprints and didn’t want us to leave and then have to call us back in. I spent the rest of the day out in the lumber stacks looking up at the crystal blue sky. It was the first time since the early 70s that I couldn’t see a contrail.
I listened to the memorial service today. The thing that held my attention this year was the children and grandchildren of the 9-11 victims and the hope that they carry for the future. What was born out of all that pain and suffering was a generation that’s dedicated to the betterment of mankind as a whole. Young people who want to cure cancer and solve problems all kinds.
God takes the bad things that happen and uses them for our benefit. As we remember the past and the loss let’s not be trapped by the memory. Instead, let’s honour those who’s lives are memorialized in art and verse by building a future that they would be proud of.