It was a moderately clear and pleasant day at the Rype & Readi Farm down in Elkton. The damage that had been done by the hurricane had not been insignificant, but a week’s worth of loving care and hard effort from the workers had served well to return the establishment to some form of working order. Day by day, things slowly returned to normal, and as things returned to normal, so too did the animals return to their routines.
Unfortunately, for some animals, this also meant that other animals returned to their routines as well.
As such, Cole was scarcely surprised when he heard grass being trod upon behind him right when he was really starting to get into his grazing. Still, as was usual with this particular routine by now, he kept his head down and kept right on chewing his cud. “If’n yer lookin’ fer Cognac,” he grunted blandly. “I know right where she is and she ain’t moved since.”
Vinnie nodded gratefully at the bull as she trotted past him. “Yeah, I know too. I’ve just been…” she sighed wearily as she cast a longing look out towards the fence. “Waiting. Honestly, I’m half hoping she comes back on her own so that I don’t have to have this talk.”
“She won’t,” Cole informed her bluntly. “Kids’re stubborn, and she’s desperate. Not a good combo. Yah gotta bite the bit and get her, cause once she gets it through her head that no one’s gonna stop, she’ll get it into her head to hoof it. There’s no other way it can work out.”
The cow gave the bull a searching look. “Since when have you been the wise father figure?”
“Tcheh, whise nuthin’,” Cole waved his hoof dismissively. “This is just plain ol’ common sense. We idjits can’t be totally braindead, dontcha know.”
“Mm…” Vinnie hummed, moving to trot towards the fence… before pausing for a moment and glancing back. “…thank you, Cole.”
And with that, Vinnie trotted towards the fence that circled the property. Once there, she located the loose board in the fence that allowed for entrance and exit from the farm that avoided the cowcatchers and was a farm-wide open secret, pushed said board open, and let herself out onto the road.
Vinnie didn’t have to walk far down the road to find who she was looking for: a young brown calf, barely a month old, standing on the edge of the road with a bundle balanced on her shoulder and sticking her hoof up in the air, clearly visible for all oncoming traffic to see.
The calf’s mother watched her child silently for a minute before heaving a sigh and trotting up to her. If Cognac had any idea that her mother was behind her, she gave no indication or acknowledgment of it.
Once Vinnie reached her, she put a hoof on Cognac’s shoulder. “It’s time to come home, dear,” she prompted softly.
Cognac shook her head in denial. “I can’t, Ma, I gotta-!”
Whatever Cognac was going to say next was silenced by Vinnie looping her hoof around her calf’s neck and pulling the child’s muzzle into her shoulder.
“I’m sorry that Apollo and Zeus moved away, sweetie,” Vinnie told her quietly. “And if I could, I’d bring them back so that they could stay here with us, but I just can’t. No one can.”
Cognac held her peace for a bit before weakly nuzzling her mother’s shoulder. “But… I miss them…” she breathed sorrowfully.
“And so do the rest of us, sweetie,” Vinnie nodded sadly in agreement. “But sometimes… sometimes these things happen. And when they do, all we can do is cry, collect ourselves… and move on, while forever keeping those who are gone in our hearts. It’s hard… but it’s what’s right. Do you think you can do that for me?”
The silence stretched on forever… but finally, Cognac breathed out a soft. “I’ll try.”
“That’s all I ask. Now… let’s go home.”
And so they did.
by Baxter Balick, Rype & Readi contributing author, Flagler College student