Dawn

     Somewhere in my subconscious the horizon tints tangerine then fades. Grey light filters in over the far fields, settles onto the aluminum pig pellet elevator, and sifts down among the soft clucking sounds of the chicken shed. Through the wall at the head of my bed, Alex’s snooze alarm erupts for the third time. I cringe, then the squash plants below my window burst bright green, the new sky clatters clear blue, and my white walls flush awake full of day.

     Across the hall, Allison wakes up singing to herself, and somewhere softly, Melissa moves downstairs. We come together in the kitchen over coffee, tea, and good toast from the farmer’s market.

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     After eating, Allison and I duck through the low door of the old barn to scrape dung from the gutters and feed the cows fresh hay. The rest of the herd, all 60 animals, is out to pasture, but we’re doctoring these four for bovine pink eye. The big black angus, Debby, kicks as usual and splatters our faces with muck. This makes Allison laugh, and her laugh makes me grin.

     Late Afternoon

     We mowed a field today, and now shadows are falling on the fresh stubble. I’m lounging, just letting them grow, when Alex rumbles into sight astride our big John Deer. I climb onto the cherry-red International Harvester, fire it up, shift into second, and then just sit there with the clutch in, watching this freakish spectacle approach.

     A while ago, Alex lost his sunglasses someplace in the big pasture. If asked about it, he’ll shake his head sadly and say, ‘They left me.’ But really it was a blessing in disguise, since he quickly filled the void with a pair of 30-year-old Ray Bans from the machine shed. And now here he is, decked out in his usual outfit: suspenders, psychedelic cow t-shirt, black bushy beard, a denim train-conductor’s cap, and the cool glint of those oversized aviators.

     Without lifting his foot from the throttle he gives me a grin and makes for the nearest round bale. With a clank and a roar I’m off after him. The three-foot spike on the front of his tractor plunges and rears, and 400-pound bales pile onto the hay wagon behind me. After eleven of these, I put the clutch back in and we transfer the wagon over to the John Deer. We high-five then Alex rattles off out of earshot to the hayshed. I pull the kill-switch on the International and the big beast subsides into quiet.

     I lie down near the woods to daydream until the next load.

     Evening

     Melissa has a laugh I love. It’s like rich liquid – milk, blood, or warm honey – in cool, stone depths.

     She also owns a cookbook with recipes for raw meat. According to this book, raw meat can cure just about any disease. From alcoholism to gangrene, hepatitis to insomnia, raw meat is apparently the answer. None of us has fallen off the wagon lately, and our long workdays leave us too tired for insomnia, but tonight we decide to forego the barbecue.

     The only problem is, we’ve just taken a steer to the slaughterhouse, and until he returns in an assortment of plastic-wrapped packages we’re subsisting entirely on ground beef. We had our tongues set on raw steak, but we settle for extra-rare tacos.

     Cilantro from the garden, a dose of limejuice, a few chilies, garlic, a pinch of salt and the main dish sits waiting – at room temperature. The bovine in the bowl before us has taken an exceptionally short trip from the pasture to the table.

     Allison fries up a stack of warm corn tortillas. Alex sautés potatoes. Then the four of us sit down to eat. Miraculous healing powers or no, the meat tastes great. It’s organic in almost every way, and since the cows eat only grass, packed with good oil instead of bad. Grass-fed beef contains all sorts of healthy fatty acids, and since we don’t feed the cows corn, the farm’s carbon footprint is a good deal smaller. Growing feed corn requires an awful lot of pesticides and herbicides, which are generally derived from oil of the inedible sort.

     ‘It’s good to be such a part of my food,’ I think to myself.

     Outside in the darkened pasture, the herd lows softly.

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