A Blog by Gail Cushman, with thanks to Cowboy Bob
From Gail: Cowboy Bob is getting to be a regular on my blog site…gotta meet him one day!
Out here at the edge of the mountains, the calving season is just getting started. I am the night calver on this outfit, which means I watch over the bulging mother cows. I make sure they calve out okay, paying attention to the little ones, just born, that struggle for that first breath, kicking as they attempt to stand up and find that delicious udder usually within minutes of coming into this world of subzero temperatures from the warmth of their mama’s belly. I smile as I watch the first attempts at walking, at the instinct that drives them to survive, stand up, respond to their mama’s licking and find that lifesaving warm milk. One day recently I saw a can of Spam on the bunkhouse wall shelf, and it reminded me of my own early days.
I was the oldest, or the first, and I had a couple of years to myself with my Daddy and Mama in Iowa. He worked his small place and made ends meet by working out, which didn’t mean gym time. In ranchers’ language it meant that he worked another job to pay bills on the ranch. Anyway, I remember a small frame house, and a warm stove, fed by coal, and when I smell coal smoke today, I recall the wood floor with tin can lids nailed over the knots, which is kinda normal for the bunkhouses I frequent now.
I was two years old, and my daddy was cooking breakfast, which he never did, and Mama was gone. My daddy was a man of few words, and he was cooking up a mighty strange meal, and I remember him saying, “It’s called Spam, eat it up, it’ll make a man out of you.”
That afternoon I heard a knock on the door and there stood Mama holding a bundle and she walked over and said, “Meet your little brother.” Well, that was mighty strange, but I finally got to know this bundle as Richard.
About a year later my daddy cooked breakfast again, and he told Richard and me, “This is Spam, eat up, boys.” The next thing I saw was Mama coming in the door with a bundle and introduced me to my next brother and she said his name was Mike.
Now, by this time, I am getting to be about five years old and starting to figure things out. I watched carefully every time Mama left the house without taking us, but no bundles showed up. I kept pretty busy keeping my marbles safe from these two kids who had showed up, so maybe I was not paying attention, but then one morning, it happened again, Daddy was cooking Spam. “Look out, boys, we are fixin’ to get another bundle,” I said. Richard listened with open mouth and Mike stared up at me as I said, “Don’t you know that Spam causes Mama to go get a baby?” Sure enough, here comes Mama in the door and she said, “Boys, here is your baby brother, and his name is Donny.” My brothers thought I was the smartest guy in the world – for a couple of years anyway.
Got to get back to my mama cows, I ate some eggs but left that can of Spam on the wall, don’t want to tempt fate.
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