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My Backyard
by M. W. McDermott


My back yard is like few others, it has an ancient beef breed ever out doors. Scottish Highland Cattle are a rare breed currently regaining attention.

My back yard is an open field of some 240 acres. We have a small stream behind the house and should it rain we have a pond too. The old buildings of past inhabitants litter the yard, a building here or over there. They are losing the battle of time and weather, slowly piece by piece decomposing.

The Red Barn, so common on any early American homestead sits awaiting new uses. Lacking funds, we do our best to keep it standing. As we move our gaze toward the west, a graveyard with a few tall pine trees keeps its guests warm an cold winters days and cool during the warm summer months.

There are six bodies buried there. The Mother and Father who homesteaded the site, along with the weaker of their children. They are testament to the struggle all in life must face. The Farm, still producing, a bold reminder of many years of hard work and few years of profit.

This morning we awoke to a cow with her uterus prolapsed, her frozen calf dead nearby. The Bulls, we have many, are excited by the smell of blood. They begin to test each others strength, one against the other.

In a fight one Black bull tips a Golden bull  over on his side, I run over and make futile attempts to calm him and give the Golden bull a chance to rise. Finally he stands, a steel fence post has cut his side, but he is no worse the harm, he now knows the Black bull is his better. Others come running, bellowing and steam blowing from their noses, horns are pointing high to the sky. These are little fellows, full of youthful pride.

The big Black Bull pays them no notice, they are too small to test strength for dominance and breeding rights. The Dogs comes, barking, cattle dogs bite their heals, the young bulls run off, shaking their heads in defiance. The Black bull has no horns, but he has strength and size. I pet him and tell him to behave, he lowers his head in reply. I give him a good scratch on his behind, the bull picks up his intent on the the other bull, the golden bull stands in defiance, but he knows the battle is over and lost.

The Vet arrives to my back yard. We set the cow up to push back her uterus. He takes a long needle and sews her vulva shut, leaving just a small hole  so she can urinate, keeping her reproductive for yet another year, with a little luck. Kelly is a good cow in her middle years. she once was shown in Wisconsin winning a Reserve ribbon against others of her breed, the year was 1996. She has given us many nice calves over the years, never a problem before? Its all about chance and risk...

The Eagles fly high overhead. The Ravens gather in the tree tops in clear view of a warm breakfast, just out of reach. The cow attempts to rise and falls to the frozen ground. Panting she decides to lay still.

I pay the Vet and he drives off. I check the other cattle in my yard, the horses pass by to see what has been going on. The Black Great Danes bark in their kennel, the smell of blood in the air. Its cold outside and the temperature is falling. Its sure to snow soon, the wind is calm.

I gaze out to the cemetery, the field is white. Eagles fly overhead. This is life in my back yard. It is winter, life and death test their mettle, perhaps on a daily occurrence, which somehow escapes our eyes as we move about in vain attempts to survive yet another day, the radio is on, a shuttle has come apart upon re-entry, Seven lives have given theirs up, as mankind attempts to explore the abyss of space. The tremendous heat of re-entry leaves little to explore, their lives ending as lights in the sky.

My back yard is full of beauty, both in life and in death. spring will come soon enough. If we make it, the sun will change the views in my back yard. But the struggle will be the same, new life making its way, old life fading away.

I can close my eyes and see back through time. I know few would desire to live here. Fewer still would have the skill or the vision to tame bulls and see calves yet to be born. But the cattle and I are a breed apart, we are Highlanders, practicing our Art, a cultural vestige, when man and beast lived together in the Highlands. The beasts have their own natural beauty and I have my pride, knowing I do my best to improve our lot in life.

I know I could never return to living in the city. There the yards are too small, no time to smell clean air, no room for the animals which take up my time. My backyard connects me, to time, I see forward and backward in time. I have no need to leave , there is plenty to do, more then a lifetime to make it right. A whole world at work in my backyard. I may never travel back to Scotland, but it is alive and well in my back yard, in sights and sounds...


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