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...
to Scots in America