Thirsty cows needed water on frigid day

It was 8 degrees below zero, and I had to chop holes in the pond ice for 35 thirsty shorthorn cows about noon. It would take a while to get into my warmest gear, so I planned to bundle up and go out about 11. I gathered the clothes and put them in the warm living area to be ready: boots, wool socks, wool gloves underneath water resistant outer gloves, two pair of jeans. I layered things until the ice couldn’t touch any bare place.

I walked slowly, turning sideways, holding the big double-bladed ax on one shoulder. I finally got to the pond. Our Pekingese dog, Fuey, loped tirelessly through the deep snow and loved it. I hadn’t planned for the 35 shorthorn cows to come out of the timber but they came, following us to the pond west of the house. Sharp ice splinters struck my slacks as I chopped. I loosened the scarf and rested. When I had chopped through 4 inches of ice, all in one spot, there was still no water oozing out of the hole. The 35 cows were on their way to this pond to drink, and I was too tired to hurry!

The thirsty animals crowded around me, some of their faces right down where my ax blade was landing. I wondered whether those cows would ever take turns if I did chop through to water in this one little place. I threatened them to keep them back, so I could swing that heavy ax and not injure a cow.

The ice was at least 6 inches thick, and it gripped the ax between strokes. When water finally seeped into the slot, I knew I had chopped through. Every cow wanted to drink first! I frightened them back and continued to whittle away at the thick ice. The ax was heavier with every blow because the water splattered and froze on it almost instantly.

It also froze on my boots, pants legs and gloves but did not touch my skin. My air came in short breaths. Finally a huge square chunk of ice was loose, floating in the hole, and I had to get it out. I also had to cut more holes to get water where several cows could drink at one time. I tilted the ax and got it under one corner of that heavy ice chunk and finally got one corner up out of the hole. After several attempts, the entire chunk was out and upside down on the pond’s surface. The two most aggressive cows drank at the same time, and others tried, unsuccessfully, to push them aside while standing on the pond ice.

Soon I chopped a second hole and, finally, a third. That was easier because the cows ignored my chopping in favor of pushing each other for a chance to slurp the water. My frozen pant legs were over my five-buckle overshoes, which didn’t touch my slacks or my legs. Icy plastic gloves kept the cold from touching my inner woolen gloves. Finally Fuey and I went to the house with a warm, satisfied feeling - remembering the music of thirsty cows drinking.

Once warm and rested, I went to my refrigerator door to read a clipping I had posted there. It reminded me that, "Pure joy comes from doing something that needs doing!" Fuey and I had a real feeling of pure joy this day.

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