This morning I woke up early, like I been doing ever since I started doing the livestock chores. It’s getting to be high summer now, and by seven it is warm enough to go without my shirt though I keep it mostly on nowdays just in case someone takes a notion to come by.
Jake goes without which is fine, he is younger and plus it means less washing for me, and I have enough to do around here. I let Seth go around bare as he was born because he is only three.
Jake is already up eating his cereal and mutters good morning back at me but he don’t look up from his eating. I pour myself a bowl and the box come up empty meaning Seth won’t get nothin today unless the stock has milk. There’s no going down to the market again til Friday. If I send Jake sooner, Mr. Jasper might ask after daddy. I sigh. Sometimes being the man of the family is right hard.
“You ready to get chopping?” I ask Jake. I don’t even try to make it sound like a game no more on account of how sore I am after all that digging. Still I know it must be worse for him being younger and all.
“What are you gonna do?” he asks me. I don’t like the sound his voice makes.
“Now Jake, we all got our chores. Yesterday I chopped two cords and you only did part of one. We need at least six more.”
“You didn’t chop all day, though,” Jake said. “You coulda chopped more.”
“I still chopped more than you. And I had to take care of the stock.”
“Maybe I wanna take care of the stock some too,” Jake said.
“You know what daddy said. You ain’t old enough. Stock is real touchy. ”
“You aint’ my daddy,” Jake said, but real low like he didn’t want me to hear. I grabbed his arm and said What was that little brother? and he looked mad but didn’t say nothing. I told him he better get to the chopping or when daddy came back there’d be hell to pay and he went outside.
Don’t be hanging around that barn, now, I yelled out to him. Don’t be upsetting the stock.
The barn is all shadows and no sun but that don’t make it cooler none, which makes me wonder why not as it is cooler under a tree for sure, so why not under something so much bigger than a tree?
I tried to look it up on one of sis’ big ol school books but it was mostly words and too hard to figger, not at all like Daddy’s book about breeding stock which is all pictures and so real easy to follow.
I feed and water the stock and brush its coat which was matted some from the barn floor. When its coat is washed it comes real pretty, lighter than the stock in daddy’s picture book, lighter even than the straw on the floor. The lard is doing the trick where the ropes are, there is no more chafing and I plan to thank Mr. Jasper kindly for the tip as that will keep him from wanting to come up here and look over the stock hisself.
For exercise I lead the stock in a big circle, using the stick left over from when we had hogs. I give it a whack in case it gets any ideas about the barn door, even with the ropes. I see that it has done a little walking by itself, its prints clear in the dirt. This shows spirit and I am glad though for sure it don’t show none during the breeding, just lying there not moving.
It’s been almost eighteen months since the last git, and I am starting wondering if this one is better eating stock than breeding stock. I could ask Mr. Jasper but I don’t know how to stop him from wanting to see it hisself, that’s the way daddy always was. Then he’d want to take over and do everthing his own way, that’d be just like daddy too.
When I finished I let Seth off his leash in the corner, where he has been watching quiet. He immediately commences to sucking for milk which evidently pains the stock which is how I come to know it has finally caught.
I am real glad as we live in the hills and there ain’t much traffic in breeding stock around these parts. This one here we got was five years ago and for the longest time there weren’t no git. That’s when daddy was doing the breeding.
After going on two years I finally did my own breeding on the sly and it caught right off. Right then I knew what had to be done. What I told Jake was that daddy went off hunting up more stock. He was too little for the real story, which is that used up stock just takes the food out of the rest of our mouths. That is something daddy taught me hisself and something Jake will understand in time.
When Seth and me come out of the barn to tell the good news, Jake is gone from the yard. I called him down but he never answered. The sun sets early this time of year, and the yard is full of long shadows cast by all the different piles of stacked up wood. I have to allow that thinking about daddy under those piles is a mite bothersome, even more so with dark coming down fast. That is when I see that the axe is gone along with Jake.
I think about them footprints and how the stock has been so used up lately, no spirit at all but still and all turned up bred. I start wondering if maybe Jake has come to his understanding after all.