Harold Shaw (Part 6)On October 29, 2010 by Ryan Dennis
Harold Shaw felt his arm tingle. That was the first sensation he had. Before he opened his eyes he was aware of stillness, and how it felt empty. He bent his arms, legs. They scratched against the earth. Opening his eyes, Harold found himself spread wide, his face in the bank of the crick.
He laid where the water leaves the gully, where the woods stop. Rocks scattered across the pasture where there weren’t rocks before. The tornado’s history was recorded by broken trees and scattered limbs. Some branches slumped towards the ground. The sky acted like it was afternoon and that it passed a mild shower. After the sheer might that tore through the valley, everything around Harold was painfully usual.
Harold lifted himself off the ground. He flexed his legs and rubbed his kneecaps without thinking about it. The tractor lay on its side in the stream. Water brushed along the tread of the tires. Harold’s only thought: how to get that thing up.
Harold walked along the pasture. He passed a clump of trees the dry cows used for shade. Twigs spread around them like chaff. There was something in front of Harold, a pile maybe, but when Harold saw hooves and the angles of an animal, he thought he lost a dry cow. But that wasn’t it. The body of 71 had been lifted from the bank and returned to the pasture. Her hair was crusted in dirt and the coloured shapes on her body paled. She laid with her feet apart and tail out, as if she had been running moments ago and simply fell over. She didn’t look like the cow that Harold put a milker on twice a day, and he knew it wasn’t the dirt, the branches around her, or the scrapes that didn’t bleed. She didn’t have her neck tag anymore. Even though she had been dead for hours, Harold hated seeing her there. He wanted to say something aloud, but he didn’t.
The next Sunday in church they said a prayer of thanks that nothing on Harold’s farm was damaged, nor anything else in the valley. He told May that he went out there to make sure the dry cows were safe, and she might never let it go. Milking that night, he thought a little bit about the tornado, about how loud and fast it was. He thought a little bit about 71. The cow lying in the grass, rolled along the ground, tossed in the air like something small. That’s how he saw it. It seemed pitiful. It was a reflection Harold could imagine someone crying over. But the next morning he got up and milked again, fed the cows, and spread the manure. He tried to guess how long before the milk inspector would be back and how many phone calls from bill collectors he could get that day. And then, Harold Shaw thought little about the cow while he fixed the watering bowl and mowed hay.
This ends this segment of Harold Shaw.