After I took this picture that day, and watched them sit out in the pasture alone, I knew it wasn’t going to be much time left for her, for them. The time was near. But I also knew that I wasn’t going to write a story about it. And then I got home and thought of everything…
I finally got settled in Billy Ray’s house one Saturday morning, and I laid out on the couch. I had already milked that morning while he was in Hernando selling milk. It’s a weekly routine we do every weekend. I was ready to relax and rest some. Kids were running around the house playing, and I was going to prop open a book and maybe read some or flip through the television to catch up on some news. I got a text from Paula, and I had wondered why she had wanted me to bring her some scissors. I had already watched her walk out to check on PWWOW, and that had been hard to watch lately.
I walked out slowly to the front pasture where Paula and her cow, PWWOW, were both sitting. I saw the rain coming a few miles away over the top of the tree lines, and the cold wind warned that it was coming sooner than later. I knelt down as she had her arms over the Jersey cow and held out the scissors. She thanked me and grabbed them. I took a step back and watched her reach over to PWWOW and cut her tag off that read PWWOW out of her ear. I’m sure Paula was the one that put the tag there a few days after she was born, after she was named. That was probably about eight years ago. They had been together every day since. She had watched her grow from a calf to a cow and have several beautiful babies and produce gallons of milk daily. It was a true bond they had. A mother and a daughter bond. You could see it was natural. And that day Paula was finally able to say goodbye. She knew PWWOW was not going to last much longer. And she eventually didn’t. She didn’t even out last the rain.
I never knew Paula would end up being a boss of mine. I’ve known Paula since I was 16. She’s more like a sister to me, and it almost drives me crazy when she tells me to do something around the farm. I can’t explain why it drives me this way. But, I usually don’t put up much of a fuss, and I do what she asks me to do. Hell, she has supper on the table for me every night after I leave the milk parlor, so I usually watch what I say back to her. And I have to work with her every day. I also respect her as well. She and I take care of the dairy during the day and night while Billy Ray is gone from his morning’s milking and working with his beef operation and the hogs. We make the day go through smoothly and the night end. But, I still don’t like it when she says, “Shane, come here…”
My writing has been slacking lately from being so busy with the dairy. The dairy has grown tremendously, and I’m almost consumed in every aspect of life with it. But I do find time to get away from it to be with my kids and my family and loved ones. Billy Ray and Paula are good to tell me to get away and go do stuff with kids or whatever I need to do. I appreciate their kindness. I value their hard work and responsibilities. They are one of the reason I work so hard and push to make this dairy grow. I’m tired of seeing them struggle. I’ve watched Billy Ray struggle with farming since he started with his first calf, Daisy, in 1989 at the age of 14. He’s never quit in those 29 years. Ask Paula what she has seen. Her stories could out match mine. I hope we continue to grow.
I’ve settled down in The Shack and got everything situated. I’ve got my notes, my cigarettes, an ashtray, a couple of beers and this handy portable Coleman lantern my Godbrother left over here a few weeks ago as he revised his latest novel here. It lights up the whole damn room really well, but I cut it off and let the candles burn. But before I cut it off, I look over onto my desk and see Dad’s Rolodex I placed in here last summer. I haven’t looked through it in years, and I start flipping each card. There are several names I do not know but there are several I do:
Ace Atkins, James Lee Burke, Marshall Chapman, Vic Chesnutt, Harry Crews, Luther Dickinson, Andre Dubus, Clyde Edgerton, Alejandro Escovedo, John Grisham, Gary Hawkins, Arliss Howard, Robert Earl Keen, Tim McLaurin, Jonny Miles, Tom Rankin, Mark Richard, Lee Smith, Brad Watson, Ben Weaver and Bill Whitbeck.
It must have taken years to have acquired such names and numbers and addresses of these writers, musicians and artists. It makes me think of repetition and desire. It definitely makes me think of hard work and struggle. I saw my Dad do all of that. But one day, that very first day, it was all worth it. I closed the Rolodex and walk out onto the deck and lit a cigarette and just sit there thinking about tomorrow’s events of work and stores Brown Family Dairy will be entering tomorrow. I think of all my dreams as I stare down at the moon dancing on the pond. I think of all of mine and Billy Ray’s late night talks we have as I’m finishing up milking and he has come by to check on me. His goals and mine are different in ways but they both stay the same. He always tells me to keep on doing what I’m doing and I listen. This growth is exciting…
It’s midnight and the “lights” above me are still glowing. I need to blow them out soon and get some rest for tomorrow. I may be in a different place tonight but my mind is still focused on what I need to do. I have to keep doing the same thing over and over. And I have to find a way to write more. And for sure find a way to come back over here to The Shack and open up some windows. I have to figure out this whole dairy and writing thing together. I like repetition and it builds on me to want more and to do the things necessary to make things grow in my life. I want things to grow for my brother and for Paula too. I’ve learned a lot from them in the last two years. And I’ve learned too that it’s alright to say goodbye when you don’t really want to.
Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux and Rilee — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.