Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Tale of Two Sisters

If this were a movie, in the background of every scene you would see Pebbles, eating, eating, eating like a house on fire. In the foreground would be the frogs, making an ungodly din with their singing, they have never been so loud, and in the background would be beer-barrel Pebbles, wolfing the new alfalfa. In the next scene, three horses dozing in the sun. In the background Pebbles: gobbling the heads off the dandelions and scarfing some old leaves that blew off the roof of the shed.

Well Terra Belle had everyone on pins and needles because she went to day 150, and then she went to day 151, and all the time she was silent and uncomplaining and held her cards very close to her vest. The farmer moved her up to the kidding stall, but she escaped - slowly and inconspicuously, the way she does everything - and nobody even noticed she was gone until she had already made it back to the decrepit down-below shed, her beloved homeland of Tara, with its chewed-up siding and flapping roof and its landmark visible-from-Space Goatberry Mountain.

"Wait a minute," said the farmer, and went down to get her, accidentally letting Pebbles through the gate. Pebbles went about two inches then stopped dead in her tracks so she could start tearing at the new sprouts of grass. Terra Belle trudged back up, silent and uncomplaining, with the farmer frowning at her.

"You are just going to have a gigantic single buck kid on Day 160, aren't you?" sighed the farmer. The farmer tucked her in the kidding stall and turned to go back into the house, but something caught the farmer's attention for once and it was Belle Starr, Terra Belle's sister, down in the other pasture. Belle Starr had been twittering and twittering all morning, which isn't unusual, because she always calls to the farmer to serve her breakfast separately in her own private bowl, but yesterday the farmer moved the bowl to the buckling pen and told Belle Starr she would just have to eat out of the feeder with everyone else, and so that morning Belle Starr had been in what seemed like a state of high indignation.

Only she never got over it, and so the farmer went down to check on her, and in two seconds it was apparent that she was kidding, and the farmer rushed her up into the kidding stall with Terra Belle, leaving the gate open again. Pebbles galloped alertly back into the barn and buried her face in the hay, eating with her eyes closed because that seemed to make things go faster.

The farmer trotted arthritically to the house to look at the calendar and sure enough Belle Starr was not due until March 31. The farmer ran back to the barn and turned Belle Starr around to take a look, but what was coming was placenta, and that only means one thing, and so the farmer ran - wheezing - back down to the Nigerian shed, knowing what would be there, and sure enough in a far corner were three kids, two handsome bucklings and a beautiful tiny doeling, born too early to live.

One of the bucklings, tiny as he was, was twice the size of the others, almost the size of a normal baby. Years ago the farmer would probably have said, "I might have been able to save him if I had been here," but what is the point of that, if you had wheels you might be a bus. So the farmer picked them up and carried them to the cottage and washed them gently and then laid them in a little box, side by side, and covered them with Sammy's puppy quilt.

The farmer milked Belle Starr out, and she had a beautiful soft udder, just like her mother. Terra Belle watched stoically, and the farmer checked her again, and she still wasn't thinking of kidding. The rest of the day passed grudgingly, with Belle Starr being milked every few hours. Her crying grew softer, and took on an absent quality.

The next morning the farmer came out and Terra Belle had kidded in the night without a peep or a stitch of assistance, and tucked in the straw next to her were three kids, two handsome bucklings and a beautiful tiny doeling, brothers and sisters to Belle Starr's triplets. The two sisters were lying in opposite corners of the stall, looking at each other quietly.

Terra Belle with her triplets, Belle Starr alone.

And just then - of course, how could it be different - the good ship Pebbles began bellowing, at the top of its mighty lungs.....

(Stay Tuned)....