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The simple life: spending a week on the farm

by Tom Hasslinger
| June 26, 2010 9:37 AM

The cows were always looking at me.

They stand out in the grass and crank their heads to watch me fumble.

Last year, I had to feed them hay. You pile the hay on a sled and drag it to the fence and pitch it over, but it rained and the sled got stuck and I fell in the mud.

This year, it rained enough that they'd eat the grass out in the fields but they'd swivel their heads and watch me anyway while they chewed.

Once a year, I'm a farm sitter.

The cows are past their milking days, like a retirement home for them. There's three goats, four dogs and at least one cat. No heat, log fires, dim lamps, lots of land, an alpaca as a neighbor, a tractor and a riding lawn mower.

The riding lawn mower got me in trouble.

Before the homeowners left, they said, "Watch the farm hand. Don't let him boss you around."

The hand was gruff. He drove a squat rusty pickup, knew farms, and spoke with the conviction of a man who knew all the solutions to problems and property that isn't his.

I didn't worry about him as much as the alpaca. The alpaca's mate had died and he looked lonely, sticking his long neck through the trees like a dinosaur when I walked the four dogs.

Three of the four dogs were terrors. The hound would eat the cat food, then bark at me. I couldn't stand the hound.

But when the farm hand saw the mower tracks, he huffed and puffed. "Did you ride the mower?"

There always has to be a little nuts with everything. Three of the dogs were nuts, but that was fine, down in the city could be nuts, too.

A mother slapped me after court because her son was sentenced for being a crook.

I wrote, "the family declined comment."

I went to a political meeting and the man sitting next to me said, "all lawyers should be shot."

I didn't write that.

So I told the hand I wouldn't ride the tractor anymore.

"Good," said he. "Because John will be wondering."

The next day I rode it with a can of beer.

John, the farm owner, left some cans in the fridge.

It can be a lot of work, he said before he left, meaning the farm but pointing to the tins.

"But it'll be a nice break," said his wife, Pat.

And it's true. The farm sits far up on Mullan Trail Road, high up, and across the front fence the fall to Coeur d'Alene begins.

It's like standing at the crest of Third Street, or Fourth Street, and watching the dip of the sidewalks slide all the way to the water, which is what I love most here; the way everything points to the water. But up there the fall looked like rows of hills stacked atop of one another, columns of pine trees on top of pines trees, black and green and silver and blue.

I never did see the cat, and it was OK the dogs were nuts.

Things could be nuts anywhere. When they chased the goats I'd chase them. When they fought I broke it up.

And somewhere during the week, some calves appeared. A neighbor brought them. I watched them every night from the kitchen window grazing in the fields with the bigger cows like they were happy to be a million miles from everywhere.

"I know, cows," I said. "I know."

Tom Hasslinger is a staff writer. He can be reached at 664-8176 ext. 2010 or by e-mailing thasslinger@cdapress.com.

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