(Appeared in Three Times Daily Anthology)
Forget Harold Shaw
By Ryan Dennis
Harold Shaw found pieces of corn at the bottom of his cup. This is the fear of every farmer every morning in the milking parlor, that manure somehow finds its way into their coffee. A sort of roulette they all must suffer.
Harold places the mug in the cart, resigned. It is a cart full of dusty milking supplies, and he pulls it along the aisle like a moving alter. One of the milkers slips down a teat and gasps for barn air. Harold squats next to it, unsteady, the manure on the back of his boots rubbing on his pant legs. The cow is a first-calf heifer and her udder is hard with edema. Harold holds the milker in place while she rocks nervously on her hind legs. Immediately, her back arches and her tail lifts. He knows that if he lets go the milker will fall and breathe in dirt and straw, so he holds on, and tries to twist his body away. It’s an awkward position and the wrinkles in his face fold into each other as he grimaces. Falling urine drums against the concrete as if, instead, falling from heaven and Harold feels it as a hot, musty rain on his arms and face.
Harold is tired of trying to find the joy in life. He knows other people his age, but he is not like them. What Harold realizes is that he could never be like them. Not even when he was young and pliable. The differences are more than a retirement house or a bird house or traveling to Europe or cardigan sweaters.
It’s like yesterday when he was pitching out a calf pen with a silage fork because he had the neighbor’s son bedding stalls with the skidsteer. After a while he heard the dying hum of the skidsteer turned off, but the walk to the shed to get it seemed like more effort than to finish pitching out the pen by hand. Change at this point is too tiring. The lucky ones die of a heart attack at the right age. He’s seen people who quit farming. They shrivel up and become small. He knows people who have sold out and he knows that at this very moment they are pacing around their kitchen nervous because in all their life they have never learned to sit down. And then, he knows, it is too late to learn anything new. Harold Shaw is seventy five and afraid that a heart attack may never come.
The streams of milk inside the milker Harold holds have thinned away. He closes a valve and kills the pulsation, only it’s broken so a faint beating is still felt in the rubber hose. A man speaks from a radio in the rafters and says an odd pressure system is coming from the south, the type that makes tornados. The heifer snaps her switch in the air as Harold hangs the milker up. A pile of manure stretches across the gutter to the edge of the alley, steam bending away from it. Harold scrapes it off by pushing the tines of a pitchfork sideways across the concrete. The area has never had a tornado because it is too hilly. And still, it’s not likely, the radio regrets. The head of the fork breaks from the shaft. Harold picks it out of the manure and dropkicks it. This upsets the cows. But you never know about things like weather, a second man says. The metal tines clank end over end down the aisle and is still rocking when it settles. Until he gets a new fork Harold will use the side of his boot to scrape manure.
Harold’s cart is out of paper towels so he goes to the milkhouse for more, still squeezing the shaft. A cow muzzles her water bowl, but her nose is dry. This is a small thing but after all these years Harold picks up these details like the way other people realize they’re getting a cold. The watering bowl is a fixture that defies excess: there is always a little water at the bottom and when the cow puts her face in it to drink the depression of a metal tongue trickles more water in. Always a little in the bowl. Nonetheless, this bowl’s tongue is broken off, the giggling assurance of water not to be heard, and Harold curses.
He fixed a drinking bowl last week, replacing it with an older one from a pile he found in the corner of the haymow. They, like the barn itself, were once his grandfather’s. Many pieces of the barn are from Harold, but he thinks the farm seeks to break these parts away and revert back to his grandfather’s. Like Harold is a skin it is determined to shed.
The sunlight edging in at the end of the barn is plugged by a figure with a clipboard. He’s a young guy, probably late twenties, a little heavy set, a chiseled goatee. His hat is clean and sits wide over his forehead with black and white shapes like a Holstein’s body. Tacky: no words or logos on this Holstein hat.
Harold can’t remember his name, but the sight of him always pisses Harold off: he’s a milk inspector, only because it’s easy to be a milk inspector.
And above all, Harold knows that with little exception fat guys with goatees are worthless individuals.
“Harold, I gave you two times to change all the gaskets and get a new pump. It’s starting to corrode inside and out and it can quit at any time.” He points his index finger at Harold. “I’m going to fail you.”
Harold stands silent, not a recipient of an artificial hello or a condescending handshake that they used to offer. It makes Harold feel old, in that this kid isn’t even a proper asshole. The milk inspector fills out yellow forms on his clipboard, scribbling in a way meant to scare Harold into repenting.
It is nothing new that this kid doesn’t know anything about farming. Harold would buy another pump if he could afford it, but there are plenty of other things that need fixing. Harold flexes his fingers around the pitchfork shaft in his hand.
The milk inspector looks up. “I’m sorry, Harold. I like you, but…” He shakes his head. In the end, it’s the tacky hat that really upsets Harold.
Harold swings. The shaft cuts a rigid path through the air and hits the inspector on the cheek. It makes a dull whap.
“What the fuck?” the milk inspector yells in a high pitched whine. His face loses color. He touches his cheek and points a finger at Harold.
Harold hits him again.
“Hey!” The milk inspector steps back quickly, shielding his face, nearly tripping over himself. “Are you fucking senile? I’m not going to fight an old man.” Harold threatens, raising the shaft again. The inspector recoils. He keeps his arms by his head.
“Forget you, Harold Shaw. It’s over for you. You’re done. It’s over.” The milk inspector nearly runs out of the barn. His foot slips on the manure grate and he stumbles backwards, landing on his back. The clipboard explodes.
Harold looks for a roll of duct tape to fix his fork while a truck door slams and hurries down the driveway. Dust swirls behind it.
Harold Shaw wears his hat backwards. It’s a green Pioneer hat with the logo stitched in white and it’s backwards because his father and his grandfather wore it normal. All old people do. Worse than that, they wear it raised, so it’s barely on the head and usually cocked to the side. Harold wears his hat backwards to show that he is still lucid and aware of the world.
“How are you feeling, Old Girl?” Harold climbs into the sick pen. The straw bends beneath his work shoes and the cow lifts her head to watch his approach. Her neck chain holds a plastic tag that reads 71. That’s who she is. He holds her ears; they feel thin and cold.
In the end, there are many diseases and metabolic conditions a cow can have, but it can usually be narrowed to an assumption. It’s made simpler by, in the end, only being a few things one can do. 71 calved a few days ago and the low body temperature probably means milk fever. Harold has already given her liquid calcium and hoped that she’d be on her feet by now, meaning fixed.
Harold slides his hand up and down her neck. “You sure were a kicky son of a bitch,” he says, and then feels guilty for using the past tense. He withdraws his hand. Most heifers are uneasy with the foreign weight of milkers on their teats, but the blessed 71 swung her back legs at Harold every milking. She had fight and was consistent with it. She had a way of approaching life. Now, however, she moans deeply, her broad frame motionless. She was the biggest ass of the entire barn, and Harold hates to see her humbled.
These are not the things that make Harold want to die: broken forks, kicky heifers, old equipment, loose cattle, getting up early, sore joints, never having a vacation, debt, working all day, milk inspectors, scarred knuckles, sick cows, manure in the coffee, too much rain or not enough, feed bills, country music turning into pop, land taxes, fixing the planter, rotten hay.
On the porch Harold Shaw shakes the boots off his feet; they fall to the concrete lifeless. He takes off his manure-splattered pants and drapes them over the bench swing. Harold walks through the front door in his underwear.
“Got time for breakfast?” May asks, wiping the counter with a faded rag.
“Just a sandwich will work.” He sits at the kitchen table while May checks a row of cupboards.
“No bread,” she reports.
“Did you bake anything?”
“Cereal it is,” Harold says. May sets the milk and Rice Crispies in front of him. He kisses her on the cheek when she brings a bowl. He is still in his underwear, and veins glow through the bristly hair on his thighs. He hasn’t bothered putting on a clean pair of pants coming in from the barn in decades. May used to comment on his sexy body until they were both middle aged, and then it was his white legs. Now she doesn’t even warn him when there are visitors.
“You’ll never believe this, Harold. I got off the phone with Sarah, and she says the conditions for a tornado are going to be possible for the next couple of days.” May vigorously sweeps the floor, the pile of dust nearly invisible. She’s never one for sitting down, always cleaning or baking or helping Lonnie, the neighbor’s kid, with a school project. Harold thinks this is cute. For nearly being the same age, she is a lot younger than him.
“You know me too well. I don’t believe it,” he says.
“They said it was possible.”
“You’d be surprised at the things possible.”
“Imagine,” May says.
There is silence, except the tapping of a faucet. Harold scrapes Rice Crispies off the inside edge of the bowl and guides them back to the milk.
May wedges in between Harold and the table and sits on his lap, spilling a little milk on the placemat. Her small frame is barely capable of pressure. She puts her arms around his neck and stares.
“How are you doing, Harold?”
Harold sighs. “Well, another watering bowl is broken and I have to get that fixed so I don’t have to haul water to it three times a day. And I’d like to get the L-shaped field mowed before it goes to head. A cow went down after calving and I haven’t been able to get her to come around yet.”
May watches Harold without saying a word. Harold wonders if it is something he said.
Harold is walking past the sick pen when another baneful detail finds him.
“Damn it,” he whispers. A pink, bulbous protrusion spreads under the tailhead of 71 and into a pile of manure. It is rubbery, and fleshy, with big cauliflower-like buttons scattered across it. 71 has a prolapsed uterus. “Damn it all,” Harold says.
Harold slouches towards the house. A rumble grows behind him and he recognizes it as his 4020. A flash of green skips by, on the seat a young boy level with the steering wheel. The boy waves his hand in the air without looking back.
“Lonnie came over, wanted to drive the tractor again,” May says. Harold walks past her into the kitchen. “I didn’t think you’d mind.” She licks pear preserve off her fingers with loud sucking sounds.
“That’s fine, Love. Is it me or does the dryer sound like it’s acting up again?” May walks into the backroom to check. Harold opens a drawer and slips a steak knife into his pocket.
“Just you,” she hollers back.
His John Deere races in a tight circle around the driveway, the driver popping up and down at every bump. Harold opens up the window above the sink and sticks out his head. “Lonnie, come here,” he yells. He meets the tractor by the flower bed where it eases to a halt. Lonnie pulls the choke and the engine rattles to a quick death. “Mr. Shaw, I’m sorry. I asked Mrs. Shaw and she said I can ride this a little for a while.”
Harold waves him off. “It’s alright. I need some help right now. Why don’t you drive the skidsteer into the barn for me.”
In a few minutes 71’s backend sways in the air, lifters snug around her hips, connected to a chain, pulled up by the bucket of the skidsteer. Lonnie slides out of the cab and underneath the hydraulic arms.
71’s uterus hangs from her. “Is that her guts?” Lonnie asks.
“Sort of,” replies Harold. He lifts a pail of teat dip thinned with water, for sterilization, and laps the brown tincture over the uterus with a cupped hand. The teat dip trickles in wiry paths down the rough creases. Harold gets underneath the uterus with two hands, the weight forcing his arms taut. The skidsteer bucket hangs over his head like an ominous cloud. He works the sensitive mass back inside the cow, patient and deftly, like wrapping a present. 71 doesn’t move but keeps her head down and moans softly every few minutes. Lonnie stands next to Harold, intently watching him as Harold’s hand disappears into the vulva.
“I need you to hold this in for me, Lonnie.” The small boy stares at Harold and decides he is serious. He walks bravely to the cow without saying a word.
Lonnie is young and when he stands close to the rear udder of 71 and reaches straight into the air the uterus falls around his hands. Harold ducks under the gate and comes back with a feed pail. On that, Lonnie is level with Harold and the cow.
Harold Shaw probably would have liked a child. He’s still not sure if he couldn’t have one or just didn’t. In a quick, silent manner he tells himself that it can be for the best. Some people can walk away from the farm, and when they do they leave the rest of those who cannot. He might have selfishly passed on a life that someone else would have to pass on. Still, sometimes Harold thinks about the son he did not have. And when he does this Harold hopes for his imaginary son, hopes that he would be strong enough to walk away from his father’s problems. But he fears his imaginary son could not. He fears this because Harold could not walk away himself. There are mistakes that others can’t learn from. Sometimes Harold thinks he did the best he could in keeping his son a thought.
Harold unties the brown laces of one of his work shoes and clenches it softly in his teeth. He lifts the steak knife from his back pocket, the blade sliding soundlessly over the bleached denim. There’s a stillness in the barn that feels heavy like thick atmosphere. Lonnie concentrates on the part of his arm that he can see. Harold pulls stiff the red, swollen skin of the vulva and needles a hole with the end of the steak knife. 71 rocks nervously, the chains that hold her up swaying from the bucket. Her chances with Harold behind her are nearly as good with a vet, and the difference is not affordable. She may be able to calve again and she may not, and may or may not live to find out. Harold drops the shoestring in the brown water. It floats on top until Harold swirls the bucket and it expands with moisture. The plastic tip punches through the bleeding holes and the dark string disappears and reappears in the tissue until it completes a circuit. Harold holds both ends and nods. Lonnie slides his wet hand out. A neat bow is made.
Harold Shaw has a memory. He is twelve years old and feeding calves in the afternoon when Jim Dunning walks up the driveway. Jim Dunning is the man that spreads lime on fields before corn is planted. Because Jim Dunning walks up the driveway Harold knows that his rig is stuck. Probably a universal truth: sometimes wet spots are deceitful, sometimes you dare them. Harold’s father always stops what he is doing to pull Jim out, but today he has left to pick up a moldboard for the plow. Jim is tall and skinny and shows his disappointment when Harold tells him his father is gone.
“Hell,” Harold says, weighing the words he’s about to say to see if he really means them. “I’ll yank you out.”
Jim is talkative in the cab, glad to be getting his truck out, asking Harold about school, sports, and his teachers. Harold answers diligently but replays in his head everything he has seen his father do, to know where to hook the chain, what gear to have it in.
The front left tire of the truck can’t be seen, swallowed by the earth. Harold backs the duels to the truck and joins the two machines with a chain that lays limp between them. Harold looks out the front window and imagines a path between two wet spots to aim the wheels. When Jim nods his head Harold puts it in gear, lets go of the clutch.
The Ford glides confidently over the worked ground, the chain behind it coming to life, beginning to straighten, until, at once, the links are pulled taut and the tractor jolts with great resistance. But it doesn’t stop. It rolls on, slowly, with strain. The dirt in front of the truck’s wheel parts reluctantly as it’s coaxed along, still crawling forward. Harold keeps his body twisted to look back, glancing at the empty field ahead of him and hoping the Ford will not stop moving.
Relief pulses through Harold’s tractor when the lime truck bounces freely again.
“Nice work,” his father says that night before flicking the milkers on. They got the field planted the next morning. It was one of the best moments in Harold’s life.
Harold felt like a farmer.
Harold Shaw sits at the edge of a bank that overlooks the dry cow pasture. He chews an unlit cigar until it becomes grit at the bottom of his gums and looks at the pasture, farm, and haze beyond the silos. He tells May that for these ten minutes everyday he comes here to check for cows in heat, and that’s what he does, because that’s what farmers are supposed to do. If a cow stands to be mounted by the cows around her Harold will breed her that evening, by artificial insemination if she’s good. What he doesn’t tell May is that he chews the cigar and leaves it wedged between two gangly branches before he goes back. It is his secret, one that he is surprised and pleased and feels guilty that he kept. The dry cows clump together, lying in the grass. They chew their cuds mechanically, flick their switch at flies that rest on their back. One Holstein is by herself, standing by the fence. Her udder is hard and swollen, and Harold knows she is restless to calve. If a tornado does come, Harold wonders what the dry cows will do, if they can anticipate enough to get away, break down the wire if they had to. He pictures cows picked up one by one and swung through the air, and he laughs out loud. Harold wonders why he isn’t worried about the tornado, if he is sure that it’s not coming, or hoping that it is.
Harold likes his ten minutes away to himself, but he has been starting to question why he has never brought May there to sit with him. He could never give her much time; when they were young the moments they spent together was her riding in the tractor or following him around the shop or feeding calves while he forked hay. She had to be active in fulfilling her needs that way, and Harold regrets that. She quit riding with him in the tractor. He suspects she quit needing.
He couldn’t afford to give her anything nice or special. There was barely money for feed. But he never let her see how bad things were, not on his face. He kept that from her, and it’s likely the most exhausting thing he does every day. She knows how much the farm suffers, but he hopes he has kept the worrying to himself. In this way he is able to be good to her.
Harold spits out the grizzle in his teeth and lodges the cigar back into the branches. They droop with the weight and hang limp in front of his face. Sometimes, standing on the bank overlooking the dry cow pasture, Harold lets himself wonder what he is doing here. He is the only farmer left in the valley, the only one that hasn’t sold out or been found dead. He allows himself to realize that it is hard. That it’s killing him and has been killing him for a long time. But then he must cut hay and change the oil filter on the manure spreader. He has to fix the watering bowl. Harold Shaw just hopes that after he’s gone and the farm is sold, May can buy something nice.
Harold has sat in the same spot at church for more than three decades: the end of the last pew. May won’t sit close to him because his fidgeting distracts her. He feels comfortable in this space because the red cushion, plank floor, and wood hymnal stand have not changed much. It is one hour of the week he is not plagued with what he has to do and what he should do, and more than that, he doesn’t have to feel guilty about it.
He is not as intent as May on swallowing every word the pastor catapults in his bouncy optimism. Much of what is said blows by and Harold picks up what he does. A picture hangs in front of him on the wall and he stares at it often. It’s Jesus and he’s laying outstretched on the ground. He’s lousy with cherubim-looking demons straining towards him and touching him with the tips of their fingers. Harold Shaw likes this picture because it secretly makes him feel better that someone had it worse.
Harold’s hand slides along the cushion and creeps towards his wife’s inner thigh. She sees it and slaps it away like a bug that could sting. She hates when he does that. A little boy behind him starts giggling. Harold winks at him.
The pastor is young and enthusiastic because he is fresh out of seminary and not beaten down by the world yet. But no one holds it against him. Harold hasn’t been paying close enough attention to pick up a message, but when he hears the name Elijah, he realizes he’s heard it before.
“And Elijah knew the time was coming when he could be taken from this forsaken earth. He knew he did all he could on this forsaken plane and that his time on this forsaken world was almost up. But he did not make a simple exit, oh no. He did not grow old in a rocking chair breathing until he could breath no more and he did not get gray and wrinkled and cramped and die of old age in a nursing home. No, no. Suddenly, it was time and suddenly, the winds began to stir and the heavens opened up with chariots of fire and a giant, I mean humungous whirlwind came down right down on him and carried him away. And that’s how Elijah was taken. In dignity. In honor. Redeemed from the act of dying first, redeemed from the power of eternal death next.”
Later, everyone chats at coffee hour while Harold still sits in the pew.
When you first fall into debt everything feels delicate: the tractor hitch, the fresh cows, the pipeline, as if everything is about to break down or bust into hundreds of pieces in the final moment that loses the farm. It’s harder to get up in the morning like that. Harold Shaw felt like that for a while. But eventually he realized that debt was not month to month but a new way of living, that bill collectors would always call during lunch. With the loss of hope comes a sort of strength. But, as Harold know, it is not a noble kind.
Every barn has two things: cats and a radio. The cats are dropped off by town people, or are descendants from cats dropped off and live detached and autonomous lives while the radio plays on. It used to be that Harold sang along to every country song, no matter what he was doing, because, he was sure, they were songs about him. Now his country has turned into what used to be pop and he seldom sings. Only the cats don’t care. The last few days have been the local deejay’s dream– they filled the space between songs with giddy warnings of the imminent tornado, joking, speculating, repeating safety precautions. May asked him to stay in the house all day with her so they can immediately run into the cellar– the storm center by radio language– but she knew he couldn’t do that. If anything happens he’d be in the cellar before she was, he promised, and she didn’t ask anymore.
“It can be the most powerful force this area has ever seen,” the radio muses.
Harold looks into the haze of the dead cow’s eyes and sees his wrinkled face and moppy hair, distorted. 71’s mouth is almost open, the ridges of her teeth showing– she’s looking upward, waiting for him to breathe life into her again. He takes off her neck tag and hangs it on a nail to use it for another heifer someday. He will miss the cow but he does not cry. He can’t cry. He will notice that she is gone, and that is something. He fits the chain around her neck and loops it over the skidsteer bucket. Instead of crying he drags her out of the barn, her body sliding quietly over the concrete.
An explosion of clattering. A hundred fingers tapping on the barn’s aluminum roof. Harold first thinks that a flock of pigeons landed, but the rattling doesn’t stop. Outside, with the pitchfork in his hand, he looks into the black sky and feels ice snap against his skin.
The hail doesn’t hurt, but falls as something revealed from the atmosphere. Shadows of cloud commune darkly. Wind resonates from the horizon and grows, airy and melodic, bringing with it languages Harold never heard before but thinks he understands.
And there it is.
It emerges out of the gully, hovering above the crick bed as if the crick bed is Its life source, getting wider and more majestic towards the top. Even far away, Harold can see it bend and dip, slowly, assertively, performing with unimaginable confidence. It pulls everything towards it like a greedy lover.
Harold’s cloths build moisture, his arms, cheeks, taut and radiant. Something catches his eye. May. She stands at the cellar door. She waves at him, the other elbow tucked over a pile of recipe books.
“Harold, get your ass in the storm center!” she shouts. But through the hail and spirited wind and dark skies her voice pales and feels like a dream.
It is a wonderful counsel of shifting colors, leaves and dirt, stones turning over weightlessly as it floats deliberately towards Harold. Harold takes a step towards it too, and then another. Each step is easier than the last until he is jogging in the cool bright sleet.
“Harold!” May yells, but Harold doesn’t hear. He strides, the pain in his joints dissolving, the top of his boots slapping against his shins in sturdy rhythm. He passes the John Deere. He turns around. The tractor sits gallant, steady, faithful. Harold mounts the steps like a much younger man. He turns the key and the seat beneath him vibrates with life. The knobbed levers are cold and slippery, but he climbs up the gears with fluency until the machine is skipping, nearly gliding over the wet grass of the pasture.
Lightning bleaches everything. It absorbs this radiance and glows. Harold feels the barren distance between them disappearing, turning to liquid, it coming to claim him and he meeting it, in a marriage of spirits. Before it even happens he feels himself lifted off the seat, gently, weightless forever, and freed. And people would gather and exclaim “He was just carried away,” everlastingly taken. He can imagine it passing through him, filling him, and passing through his barn, dissolving the affinity between a board and a brick and suspending them around his floating body until he is absorbed into the wreckage, peaceful, indistinguishable.
Its persuasive whisper beckons on Harold’s skin. Harold Shaw is close now. The commanding power of wind screams the hot breath of a thousand trains exploding by, surrounding him. Everything it is carrying is melted into colors, shadowy, broken images flashing through him. Pressed against the seat cushion, wrinkled, gangly fingers clutching the steering wheel, harder now, he can only squirm, until he cannot move, disappearing into the tractor, the deafening wind, the colors blinding.
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 colored 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.