The words came out of my mouth—"Stay in bed. I'm going to go feed the cows for you"—and I instantly regretted them. I was really hoping he would put up more of a fight, but I think the fever had made him somewhat delirious. Sure, I had ridden with him dozens of times to feed the cows, and I knew what and how much to feed them, but I was not confident in my ability to do it alone. I had become accomplished at opening and closing gates, and that was about it. I was far more comfortable sitting happily in the warm truck, smitten with my handsome farmer as he was busy out in the cold, feeding his "girls." I hadn't grown up around cattle as Jake had. I had gazed at them from a distance while driving down our country roads, but that all changed when Jake and I started dating. I needed to know what I was getting into if I was going to become a farm wife, and cows were included in that mix. I always tried to play it cool, but I could climb a fence in a hot second if a cow even looked at me the wrong way. I had seen how angry a momma cow could get, and I knew the damage a 1,300-pound animal could cause.
I pulled on my coveralls and boots that frosty morning and climbed up into his big diesel truck. As I drove to the pasture where we kept our round hay bales, I gave myself a pep talk: "I've done this plenty of times with Jake. There's no difference. He's going to be so proud of me." I'm obviously great at pep talks.
I grabbed the remote that controlled the bale bed and turned it on, double-checking to make sure I hadn't pushed the wrong button. I had used the bale bed before and knew I needed to back straight up to the hay bale, use the remote to lower the two metal arms on the pickup bed, squeeze the bale with the arms, and use them to lift the bale onto the pickup bed. I watched in the mirror as I held the button and the arms lifted the bale of hay onto the back of the truck with ease. Step one was accomplished without a hitch.
My confidence was rising as I drove the few miles to the pasture where the cows were. I hopped out of the truck, grabbed the icy metal of the gate, and swung it open so I could drive into the pasture. I turned to head back to the truck, and just when the thought crossed my mind that maybe I'd be okay after all, it happened.
I saw the cows heading for me and the opened gate, so I hurriedly jumped in the truck, pulled into the pasture, hopped out of the truck to shut the gate, and hopped back in the truck. The cows had heard the truck pull into the pasture, and they knew it meant dinnertime. Sixty momma cows came running and surrounded the truck, loudly sounding their dissatisfaction that I was taking so long to deliver their meal. I opened the door and sank in the mud as I hit the ground. I froze.
Cows kill more people than sharks. That fact rang in my mind, and I contemplated my options. Giving up wasn't an option. The cows had to be fed, and there was no way Jake could do it. More than that, though, my pride was not about to admit defeat. So I got clever. I still wonder whether any neighbors or people driving by saw what happened next, but I doubt it or I would have become a viral sensation on the internet.
I unstuck my boots from the mud, stepped up on the running board, and contemplated my next move. When Jake fed the cows, he would walk through the herd to the back of the truck, lower the bale of hay to the ground using the bale bed, and cut the net wrap that holds the bale together. I didn't walk to the bed of the truck and do what Jake did. I stared at the large, demanding cows surrounding the truck, stretching their necks to try to sneak a nibble of hay, and I became paralyzed with fear. So I climbed on top of the truck. I crawled across the roof, trying not to slide off, as an entire herd of cows mooed and probably wondered why this crazy lady wouldn't just feed them already. I then climbed down onto the bed to cut the net wrap off and lower the bale to the ground. Only then did I realize I had left the remote that controls the bale bed in the center console of the truck. I had no way to lower the bale.
Maybe most people would have realized they were being a little dramatic. Maybe they would have just hopped down and walked to the cab to get the remote. They wouldn't have let their fear win. But not me. I climbed back onto the roof, scooted my way to the still open door, shimmied down and got the remote, and reversed the process to get back to the bed. My nervousness grew, along with the impatience of the cows. I was in no danger where I was, yet my hands shook and my heartbeat pounded in my ears as I tried to finish the task. The cows were done waiting for me and were reaching over to eat the hay straight off the truck.
I cut the net wrap off the bale, lowered the bale to the ground, and proudly climbed back onto the roof, over to the door, and into the driver's seat. Mission accomplished. Now, I have to be honest: I don't think anyone knew that full story since I've never told the details until now. I have admitted to climbing onto the bed, but I don't think even Jake knew I climbed onto the roof. Because on the other side of my fear, I could see the irrationality of my actions in that situation. I was embarrassed by the fear that had gripped me. I threw logic out the window and let fear lead the way.