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In sickness and in health

“You should just go to bed.” This was Amber’s instinctive response several weeks ago when I muttered after supper something about still needing to milk the camels, followed by a long fit of coughing and moaning. She could tell that this time I wasn’t throwing in the moaning for sympathy points. I was coming off the flu and a long day of work in the bitter cold – always a great combination. But since milking is a somewhat important part of running a dairy farm, a measly bug wasn’t going to stop me.


Long story short, it stopped me.

Usually pulling on my coveralls after supper gives me the same boost of energy as sticking jammies on the kids. But not this night. Even the dog could tell I was grumpy; she sprinted to the barn without caring to enjoy our nightly walk. And if your wife and dog can tell you’re in a bad mood, there’s a good chance your camels will, too.

I should introduce the dog. This is Ellie, our Irish Wolfhound.


Ellie has her own couch, scares the UPS drivers just by looking out the window, and considers camel droppings the world’s tastiest treat. As a rule, we keep her away from the camels. They may or may not mind her, but their reaction to a large dog is one variable we can do without. On this night I broke the rule. I built a barrier with hay bales so Ellie couldn’t come into the milkroom, but was too tired to stop her from hunting for her special treats in the barn as I prepared to bring Desi in from the lean-to.

At first Desi was a peach, sauntering blithely into the milkroom until she saw Ellie standing at the side door. And like any animal (or UPS driver) caught off-guard, she bolted…backward…into me. In my flu/cold-induced delirium I tried blocking her path. Bike, meet freight train.

At this point I started hearing voices in my head. Specifically Amber’s sing-song “I told you so.” And for that reason I had to keep going; turns out I can be a spiteful grump. So I shooed Ellie out of the barn and attempted to bring Desi back in. But by this time, Desi had other ideas, as demonstrated by shoving her head as far into the hay feeder as it could go. Also by this time Ginger and Daisy were intrigued enough by the smell of grain I had poured in the milkroom they got to thinking they’d like to be in there, too. Oh, what a mess. I regained control but Desi still needed time before she was willing to walk with me again. I didn’t mind. I leaned on the wall like an upside-down sledgehammer, thirty pounds of congestion sitting above my neck.

In that moment God decided I should consider the mess I had made...pride, stubbornness, spite. Oof, what a list. I resolved then to humbly accept Amber’s “I told you so” when I came back inside. But God wanted to emphasize the point a little more.

Finally, Desi was ready to follow me back in, though she took cautious half-steps entering the milkroom. Jericho was very ready to nurse after watching the circus and sprinted behind us. Only one necessary item didn’t rejoin the routine – Desi’s milk. I spent seventeen cold minutes coaxing the milk down like a t-ball coach trying to convince a 6-year old to swing the bat. Just give me a dribbler, for pete’s sake! I tried, and prayed, and tried, and prayed. And got about eight piddley squirts.

It doesn’t always go like this. Like I said, usually the chores are a source of energy and joy that I relish. This night, I found my joy still waiting up for me. Amber laughed and laughed at my misadventure – a compassionate laugh, don’t worry – especially when I spilled half of the lousy milk on the counter. If that milk hadn’t cost me so much I wouldn’t have soaked it up with a paper towel to save all four drops. But you better believe I did.

Amber’s merry heart eventually won me over. We went to bed happy and, what do you know, at her suggestion I skipped milking the next morning.

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