The Search for Amy: A Short Story by cam
Rick and Rodney rode into the barn one morning while Tom was putting the bridle on his Welsh Pony/Appaloosa cross named Wendy.
“You can stay on your ponies, cause we gotta go look for a lost cow,” said Tom.
“Which one’s lost?” said ten year old Rodney as he sat on Ginger, his Shetland Pony.
“Amy,” said Tom. “Dad was gonna put her in the box stall today to have her calf, but now she’s missin.”
“Where we gonna look first,” said thirteen year old Rick, astride his white Appaloosa gelding named Billy.
“The pastures on both sides of the creek.Then we’ll check the woods.”
“What if we don’t find her?” said Rodney.
“We’ll probly have to walk the cornfields,” said Tom.
“That’s a lot of walkin,” said Rick.
“Maybe we’ll find her before that. C’mon, let’s ride,” said Tom.
Pipe Creek ran through the property owned by Tom’s Mom and Dad. At some time in the past its limestone bed had been blasted out with dynamite. The result was a strip of limestone rubble piled along the creek. Some of these hills had been covered by blowing soil and sported a healthy growth of grass. In the woods, where the hills were protected from the wind, bare limestone mounds lined the creek.
Out in the open pasture, the boys rode their ponies up and down over the grass covered hills along the creek as they searched for Amy. At the end of the pasture, which was also the end of the property, the boys crossed the creek and searched the other side as they rode back toward the barns. That’s when they discovered the dead tree that had fallen and landed on the fence.
“It’s a good thing the cows don’t come back here on this side of the creek very often or we’d be lookin for the whole herd,” said Tom.
“Do you think Amy got out here?” said Rodney.
“If she was lookin for a quiet place to have her calf, she might have wandered back here and gotten out. She could be anywhere now,” said Tom.
“Looks like we’’re gonna be walkin through cornfields the rest of the day,” said Rick.
“And tomorrow,” said Tom.
The boys reported the fallen tree and the mashed down fence to Tom’s Dad, Carl. The farmer’s big hand reached immediately for the telephone.
Within a few minutes, Carl and the boys were in the car heading to town, after a brief stop at Rick and Rodney’s house. They needed to ask permission to go up in a small airplane with Carl and Tom to look for the lost cow.
A red Mooney M20C Ranger sat outside the hanger at the Municipal Airport with a full tank of fuel. The boys raced to the single engine aircraft to see which of them would get to sit in the front seat next to Carl who would be piloting the plane. In the end, though, Carl placed the boys where he wanted them in order to have the correct weight distribution. Rick was the biggest of the three, so he sat in the front, next to Carl. Tom was in the seat behind Rick, and Rodney sat behind Carl.
Mooney M20C Ranger
Out on the runway, the pavement blurred as the plane raced ahead, bumping and bouncing, until the wheels left the ground and all they felt was the smoothness of floating on air. While they were flying toward the farm, Rick asked a question.
“If Amy is gonna have her calf, why not just let her have it wherever she is? She’d come back on her own after that, wouldn’t she?”
“I’m sure she would,” said Carl. “But there are two medical conditions that might occur while Amy is giving birth, and either one could cause her and the baby to die.”
“One’s milk fever, right Dad?” said Tom.
“That’s right, son.”
“What’s milk fever?” said Rodney. “Does she get hot like I do when I get the flu?”
“No, Rodney,” said Carl. “The word fever is misleading in this case. Her temperature would actually go down. Milk fever occurs when the cow’s calcium level drops as a result of producing a sudden, large quantity of milk in preparation for the birth of the calf. Calcium helps muscles work properly. If it dropped too low, the cow would be forced to lie down, unable to get up again. The newborn calf couldn’t eat and both would likely die without the help of our veterinarian, Doc Lamkin.”
The boys became more anxious after that explanation, watching out the windows for the first sign of the farm.
Mooney M20C Takeoff
“Tom, why don’t you explain the other thing that could happen to Amy and her calf,” said Carl.
“Oh, that would be a breach birth,” said Tom. “Sometimes the calf can get turned around inside its mother. It’s supposed to come out nose and front feet first. If it’s trying to come out wrong, somebody has to reach inside and turn the calf around so it can get out.”
“Reach inside?” said Rodney. “Yuk, that is so gross.”
“It’s not so bad,” said Carl. “The person doing it has a long plastic glove on that reaches to his shoulder.”
“Shoulder?” said Rodney. “They stick their arm in all the…..” Rodney began acting like he was vomiting on the floor.
The Farm Today With Pipe Creek to the Left of the Barns
“Hey, there’s the farm,” said Tom, pointing further west. The plane flew over the farm buildings, the tin roof of the big red barn glowing in the sunlight like a the lens of a giant spotlight.
“The first field we’ll check is the eighty acres near where you found the tree across the fence,” said Carl. The plane began flying north and south, back and forth, low enough for the search team to see between the six foot tall stalks of corn. It wasn’t a perfect view, but it was their best chance at finding the cow.
“I hope she’s standing up when we find her,” said Rick.
“I hope the calf is already born,” said Rodney.
“I hope you both get your wish,” said Carl.
About an hour later, Carl pulled the plane up and turned toward the barns. Clouds were forming in the western sky and they still had not found Amy.
“We may have time to search the next field, but then we’ve got to get back to the airport,” said Carl. A forty acre cornfield stretched out before them with an alfalfa patch adjacent to it, leading right up the to the first row of corn.
“She’s gotta be down there,” said Tom. “We searched everywhere else.”
Twenty minutes later, Carl turned the plane to make the final pass over the field. The man and the boys were silent, wondering what to do next. At the end of the field, Carl pulled the plane up and began a slow turn toward the east in the direction of the airport.
“There she is,” shouted Rodney. “And she’s layin’ down, too.”
The boys heard Carl let out a low groan of disappointment.
“I see the calf,” said Rick.
Carl turned the plane back toward the corner of the field. Amy had made a small circle near the edge of the field by mashing down cornstalks. He flew low over the cow and calf, hoping to be able to tell if Amy was sick or well. He finally pulled the nose of the plane up again.
“She’s up,” shouted Rick. “And so is the calf.”
“Thank God,” said Carl.
“Yeah,” said Rick and Tom.
“Amen,” said Rodney.
Carl landed the plane back at the airport just minutes ahead of the storm. They drove back to the farm through a driving rain with thunder and lightning alternating, offering a dramatic audiovisual display. Inside the barn, the boys bridled the ponies and hopped onto their bare backs as Carl gave them instructions.
“You’ll have to walk the ponies back so Amy can keep up. Cover the calf with this.” Tom took the rolled up sheet of plastic and spurred Wendy out into the storm with Rick and Rodney close behind.
They tied the ponies to the fence at the end of the alfalfa field. Amy would already be nervous because of the thunder and lightning, so they crept cautiously toward the corn. As they weaved their way through the rows, pollen from the tassels mixed with the rain and landed on their hats and shirts.
They stopped two rows from Amy’s clearing. The calf was nursing and the boys waited patiently. When the calf was finished, they stepped into the circle. Tom spoke quietly, taking slow, deliberate steps. Even though Amy was a pet, she might get aggressive if they moved too quickly. But the cow trusted the boys, allowing them to pet her and her calf.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” said Rodney.
“Can’t you tell?” said Rick.
“Sure I can. I just don’t want to, that’s all,” said Rodney.
“It’s a heifer,” said Tom.
“That means it’s a girl,” said Rick.
“I know what heifer means,” said Rodney. “I’m just glad it’s a girl cause the boys always disappear.”
“Yeah,” said Rick. “They disappear into the freezer.”
“The freezer?” Said Rodney.
“Never mind,” said Rick.
Tom dropped down onto one knee while Rick and Rodney lifted the calf and draped it over his shoulders, legs dangling against his chest. They walked back toward the barn leading the ponies, with Amy following close behind. Tom’s Dad was waiting in the box stall where he had put down fresh bedding. He lifted the calf from Tom’s shoulders and placed it gently onto the dry straw. Amy began licking the calf, making sure all was as it should be.
That night the boys slept in the hayloft. They lay in the darkness listening to the rain as it drummed on the tin roof.
“Rodney,” said Rick. “It’s a good thing the calf wasn’t breach. You might have had to reach in and straighten it out.”
“Aw, Rick. Why’d you hafta say that right when I’m tryin to fall asleep?”
Later, as Tom and Rick continued to listen to the night’s sounds, they heard Rodney mumbling in his sleep, saying something about his arm and being stuck. The next morning, Rodney woke with two long plastic gloves covering each arm, all the way up to his shoulders.