The art of being dramatic is a practiced skill most commonly observed in large flocks of teenage girls and mastered by anyone who bothered wasting their time, responding to Miley Cyrus’s “controversial” performance at the VMAs last week.
My two oxen and I recently had our own drama to deal with.
A couple days ago, a photographer from National Geographic arrived at Shaker Village to snap pictures for its Traveler magazine. Incidentally, the photographer was especially captivated by my two boys and spent close to an hour, taking pictures of them toting crates of zucchinis from the garden to the barn. Near the end of this little photo shoot, as I walked Merle and Roy along the fence line toward their pasture, a few onlookers huddled a bit too close. By now, Merle and Roy were irritated with all these people and antsy to get back to the barn. Suddenly, Roy, my far-side ox, sped up in an attempt to “play” with the person standing directly in front of us. This action turned the entire team and wagon to the left, boxing me in against the fence and causing Merle, my near-side ox, to somehow fall over the bar that connected the yolk to the wagon. In moments, Merle lay on his side with the yolk pressed tightly under his throat. Do you know what my feelings were?
Google some synonyms for alarmed…
At this point in time, I made a feeble attempt at providing a “this happens all the time” kind of impression to dissuade anyone from panicking. In reality, I felt like my pulse was doing a Dubstep dance on my neck. How would I explain this one to the National Geographic photographer?
“Oh, hey there Miss Photographer, you’re probably wondering why he’s in that strange position. It’s just part of the daily training routine. I teach them ‘gee,’ ‘haw, ‘step up,’ and of course, ‘play dead!'”. . .
Actually, the judgments of others were the last things on my mind. My main concern was whether or not Merle was OK. The paranoid part of my brain immediately went to the two worst case scenarios possible: the wedged position of the yolk was either cutting off his air supply or seriously injuring his neck. Somehow, the yolk had to be removed. I yanked and pulled at the pins and bows to free him, but as much as I tried, the weight of Merle wedged it stuck. My hands trembled. Suddenly, a rooster crowed in the distance and I knew what I had to do. It was time to call on The Chicken Lady super power strength inside of me and harness the power of the poultry for the greater good! In moments, I yanked the stuck pins out of the yolk and finally freed Merle’s neck. Phew!
With many types of livestock that are held down in a certain position for so many minutes, the animal sometimes waits a few moments before rising because it doesn’t immediately realize that it’s free to get up (example: a sheep after sheering). So of course, Merle just laid on his side, looking up at me for two more minutes, making the scene appear a thousand times more dramatic than it actually was.
As it turned out, Merle was absolutely fine. The moment he rose, that little devil began walking and grazing like nothing ever happened. The photographer was extremely understanding about the whole thing, (and fortunately didn’t take pictures of it!) NEVER in my time training have I had an incident that came close to this one. Catastrophes work that way. They happen when the timing is the absolute worst and when National Geographic is watching you. Next time around, I think I’ll be an accountant.
I’d be lost without my Merle. He’s my ox-ygen. Get it?
(photo credit: Katya Bowen, thank you!)