Ann and I attended the UW Madison Writers Institute at the Concourse Hotel this past weekend. We were very fortunate to earn First Place in the nonfiction One Page Prose or Poetry Contest. The entry was a piece from the Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers memoir about growing up on a farm in Crawford County in the 1940s and 1950s. The One-Page is below.
The Missing Yearling non fiction
Bob came back from counting yearlings. “I counted 31,” Bob said. “There’s supposed to be 32, you know, maybe you missed one. All three of you boys go count ‘em,” Mom replied. Phillip, Bob, and I set off to do a fresh tally. We found the herd and counted 31.
We searched for an hour and found the absent yearling, lying peacefully against a short cliff alongside Kettle Creek. We poked and prodded, pleaded, and twisted her tail. She would not move. With tractor and trailer, we moved the young heifer from creek bed to the Little Barn, empty during the summer. “She broke her back in a fall off the cliff,” Dad contended.
All summer I tended to the young cow, keeping a dish pan full of fresh water. I brought fresh grass clippings several times a week, and furnished oats and hay for the stricken animal. She ate and drank like any other heifer. She pooped and peed like a normal grown calf. But she couldn’t stand up.
I stroked her face and jowl, patted her neck, felt her rough tongue as she ate ground corn out of my hand. I talked to her. I confessed my problems and asked for advice. I was ten years old and she was less than two, but she understood. She had such beautiful eyes.
She was crippled for life. Dad couldn’t take her to Seneca to the livestock barn. Finally, Dad called the rendering truck. My new-found friend was shot with a .22 long rifle. She immediately plopped on her side. The rendering truck operator used a winch and tied cords around her feet and pulled her aboard the truck. Dad talked to the man for a few minutes. Then he climbed up in the cab, started the engine, drove pass the garage, turned left onto Oak Grove Ridge road and headed toward Seneca.
I ran to the back side of the Small Barn where no one could see me. I climbed over the fence and walked down through the corn field about 30 rows in and started crying. I sobbed so deeply my chest hurt for several days. Not all friends are human beings, I found out.