On Giants' Shoulders

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Story For My Niece

My niece Laura has asked for a family story, so I thought I'd treat you all to a story from Vermont. This one makes everyone laugh now (even me), although I was certainly not even beginning to laugh about it at the time.

I arrived home from school later than usual one afternoon, having stayed for play practice or some such thing. My sister had come home on the bus as usual, while I had caught a ride with someone else. I was wearing a pair of red seude boots that I really loved. I had got them at the bargain counter, so they weren't really replaceable, but they were definitely my favorite boots (totally impractical for the farm as you will see).

When I got to the door my sister opened it for me. She wasn't paying attention to the fact that our dog, Ginger, was right there as well. Ginger was a notorious deer chasing dog and had to be kept either inside or tied to prevent that in the fall and winter. Ginger darted out the door as soon as it opened. I yelled at my sister for letting the dog out and then took off after our errant mutt.

Ginger headed across the yard at a run and I ran right after her. Then she crossed the road and headed through the barnyard. She was getting away from me and would soon be headed to the woods, I was certain. When she got to the manure pile she zipped right up it because it was frozen. It was also large, large enough that I knew that if I took the time to go all the way around it she was going to get away. So I decided that where the dog could go, I could too. After all it was frozen, right?

Well Ginger made it all the way too the top and down the other side. I on the other hand made it only about a quarter of the way up before one foot went crashing through the frozen surface and into the unfrozen manure underneath. Need I note that the dog probably weighed all of 40 pounds, at most(she was a minature collie terrier mix), and I weighed over 100. I knew I was in some trouble, but only panicked slightly. I put my hands down to try to get some leverage to pull the foot out. Then the other foot went through the frozen surface as well. There I was stuck in the manure pile. One foot was ankle deep, the other was stuck almost to the top of my boot. I yelled for help, but no one came. I was in deep .......(well you can fill in the blank!)

Somehow I eventually managed to extricate myself and carefully slide back down the pile. Of course, by that point it wasn't only my boots that had manure on them, but my hands and coat as well. The dog decided to investigate what was going on with me and I managed to grab her collar. I dragged her back to the house and banged on the door to be let in. When my sister saw the condition I was in she let out uproarious roars of laughter. I was not amused. I was sure that my favorite boots were ruined.

I did manage to get them cleaned off (I suspect that they were manmade material rather than real seude) and I did wear them again. The whole incident was the subject of much laughter in the family and continued to be one of the family stories that got told from time to time. It was trotted out each of the two times that a cow got stuck in the manure pile (they had to be pulled out with a bucket loader!).

The physics of the whole thing actually explains my dilemma. Underneath the frozen surface there is actually a lot of biological activity going on (as any of you who've ever made compost would know). All of that creates enough heat that the inside of the manure pile is still quite, well to put it delicately, soft. A little dog could run across the surface of it, but even a skinny teenager was unwise to try.

I might note at this point that, although my father had owned a farm since I was a year and a half old, we didn't live on a farm until I was nearly fourteen. I was really not familiar with the insides of winter manure piles. Manure didn't get spread at that point in the year. I honestly thought it was going to be like climbing over a mound of piled up snow. Of course my stupidity on this count was part of what my father found so funny. I suspect my sister would have been smart enough to not climb over the manure pile. Of course, she always contended that she would have been.

So there you have it, Laura, I wouldn't have landed in the manure pile if your mom hadn't let the dog out. Of course I also wouldn't have landed in the manure pile if I had had been even a little bit observant of the properties of manure. I, was a lot more interested in reading novels than observing such natural phenomena. I also should have known better than to go chasing after the dog in dress boots.

That dog ultimately ended up getting shot when she was deer chasing, recovered from her wounds and lived to chase again. One day she never came home and we always assumed that she got shot by a hunter. I on the other hand never stepped foot on another manure pile. Some of us learn, some of us don't.

That also was the last pair of red boots I ever owned. My dress boots since then have always been either black, or a nice manure colored brown.


At 7:13 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

Oh, you're such an E. :-)

At 10:49 AM, Blogger brrrtquacker said...

That was grand! Mom, of course, did tell that one a couple of times, but all the lovely details really brought it to life. Thanks, Liz!

At 12:47 AM, Blogger DavidofOz said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. Our whole family enjoyed your tale of woe. It is likely that we too would have followed the dog as we have almost no experience with snow - and especially manure piles. But now we have learned something new.


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