When J was little and we snuggled at night he would say “tell me a story from your mouth,” meaning tell him a story that is my own.
I would tell him my stories about getting the cows when I was little, singing my c’mon cows song and collecting the seed heads from all the different kinds of grass into a bouquet. About chasing pigs, the worst of all livestock to wrangle as my impatient father shouted directions. About climbing bale filled wagons pretending to help, while the men sweated and tossed hay into the barn. About riding in the back of the farm truck to the edge of an August cornfield where my dad would disappear into the stocks to pick sweet corn for supper. We would hold our breath afraid to worry out loud about how he could possibly find this way back. About going to the barn with my mother, handkerchief in her hair, to do the milking while we amused ourselves with kittens and playing in the grain cart. About eating soup on the tailgate when we took supper to Dad in the field. About the independence, hard work, and thoughtfulness it takes to run a farm. The stories I remember.
This summer J has been Grandaddy’s little shadow. Waiting at the edge of the porch, boots on, listening for the sound of the farm truck to start up in the morning, the first sign that Granddaddy is headed to the barn. Then rushing to the end of our lane waiting for his signal to cross the road for the morning chores. He plays in the feed room while Grandaddy fills the feed cart. He walks along for fence moving, and cow getting, stopping to examine one thing or another amid a steady stream of chatter. He grumbles when I make him come home for supper.
He has been tucking away pearls all the while, how are corn kernels made, what is the first milk after calving called, how does the milk truck get the milk out of the tank. He knows how the milk tank is cleaned, where to put the compressor hose on the pipeline, and when to milk a cow into the bucket. He knows the difference between heifers and cows, which one is the steer, and where it is destined. He has been along for the matter of fact rituals of birth and death, considered our place in the cycle, and catalogued the experience in his old soul. My J is a reader, so when he brings up these pearls to me I ask him how he knows, did he read it or did somebody tell him. The answer is always Grandaddy.
I have occasionally followed behind cautiously documenting this phase, afraid to call attention lest it might shatter the budding magic. I have taken the uncharacteristic stance of saying nothing. Understanding that the precious autonomy available in this rural place is part of the appeal. I act as if I expect all this, though honestly I am surprised at his interest, and proud of his curiosity. I have taken a step back.
Now, the story is his.