If It’s Not One Thing…

Yesterday–a chilly Sunday morning so windy and rainy I didn’t bother taking an umbrella–it would have been blown inside-out when opened up on the hill outside Huffville Church.

Rounding one of the many blind curves toward home just before the rains swept up from the piedmont of North Carolina to give us yet another soaking, I come upon a free-ranging cow and calf sauntering ahead of me in the middle of the road, reluctantly moving over finally to let me pass.

It dawned on me where they most likely belonged–to a new neighbor that recently moved into the farmhouse on our road that sat vacant for more than a year. They have horses, too, and the fence is good enough for horses–but apparently not for cows.

Not ten minutes after I got in the house, momma and baby were in the yard eating grass (and making deposits) near the Here’s Home sign. Even though I closed the curtains to prevent it, the dog spotted our bovine visitors and all heck broke loose.

Tsuga quieted down a bit after the cows went out of sight for him, though I watched them through the window at my desk as they grazed the entire edge of the pasture and finally disappeared beyond the end of the valley.

I didn’t know how to get in touch with the animals’ owner (we know first names only) and decided NOT to try to herd them back a mile up the road and back inside their obviously defective fence.

Half an hour later, as I tried to take a ten-minute nap, the dog went crazy (again) at the sound of several hounds ranging in the wet woods of our ridge. From the front porch, I fired the .22 a time or two into the creek bank and the dogs moved on. (They reappeared acoustically about an hour after we went to bed last night. Now who do THEY belong to and why does the owner let his dogs run wild?)

Another half hour–about 1:00–and the storms started in earnest, wave upon wave of thunder and lightning, and the dog (yet again) goes bonkers. The older he gets the more terrified of storms he seems to become. He was determined he was coming up into my lap, all 90 pounds of him, no matter where I tried to settle.

He also for the first time in the past month has taken to running up the steps when he’s upset–the upstairs a forbidden area–and we’ll have to get a childproof expanding fence to go across the bottom of the stairs.

And finally at the end of a frazzled day, as Ann got home from work and started on dinner at dusk, we are startled by a knock on the back door–something that always means something more than a neighborly visit. Neighbors generally call first or honk or holler from the driveway to hullo us as a polite warning. Maybe this was the cow’s owner, come looking, we both thought.

No. A very wet stranger stood dripping in the door, his truck he said was a half mile up the road over the edge with only one tree stopping it from ending up on its top.

Like many of our door-knockers, this one also enjoyed high ethanol content and correspondingly altered reflexes. We called a wrecker, gave him some hot chocolate and temporary use of my jacket and stood him by the wall space heater to warm up.

After a half hour of manufactured conversation, I deposited him back up on the road to await the wrecker folk who said they’d be right there. Ann and I never saw the disabled truck (that was heading this direction when it was spirited off the road) or the wrecker go by, so don’t know how that story ended. Maybe it hasn’t, yet.

I’m through whining for now. And I’m hoping the dog will have a more peaceful day.

Update 8 a.m. : as daylight comes to Goose Creek (and I haven’t told the dog yet) I see we have two black and white hooved animals grazing contentedly in our pasture. They seem quite at home. Should anyone come looking, you can’t miss ’em. If not, we have two large pets until the grass dies back in November.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. After experiencing that bit of road in daylight and sober I can’t imagine what it must be like in a rainstorm and with liquid courage for antifreeze. Sounds like an interesting Sunday…all in all.

  2. We had about the same storm here last night that you were experiencing Sunday morning. This morning it’s calmed down, but everything outside looks beaten up, by the wind.

    I have a dog who was also terrified of thunder, but he is much better now. I got a CD of thunder storms a few years ago and this trick has worked wonders for him. Every spring just as the thunder storms are due to being, I put on that CD and play it , low in the background at first, a lot for a period of days.

    Then I play it a little louder, until it gets loud enough that it sounds like the storm is right on top if us. This has worked like a charm. He gets use to the noise and it seems to stop bothering him as much.

    Years ago I got some sedatives for him, and I’ve had to use them only occasionally. But I don’t let him get upset by the storms or the CD playing, because getting upset when there’s a storm coming seems to develop into a habit.

    So at first I had to give him a sedative a time or two when I increased to volume of the CD. But now he does much better and needs only a half of a pill when it’s a really bad storm.

    When there’s a really bad one coming I have to watch the radar and when it’s going to be a really bad storm, give the pill about half hour before the storm gets to me. But it’s gotten to be rare that I have to give him a pill any more.