McDowell Technical Community College

The Rest of the Story

Doug Harrell

Clint always had a certain love for the animals, but his wariness most often took over.  He was kinda like, “man those are BIG animals” if you know what I mean.  He was a little more comfortable with smaller pigs as well, but not so much when they got up to grown-up size.  The favorite place to keep him when we were working with the cows remained the truck cab over the tenure on the farm.  Great memories!

 

‘Til the Cows Come Home!

It was mid-March 2010, and I had only been at Harrell Hill Farms for a few days. Already my rotund/chubby/obese body – I was a svelte 300+ lbs. — was protesting the newfound life of physical labor. (Don’t tell anyone but a week or so into my “Farmer Clint” transformation I was questioning whether this was the life for me!) One of my first assignments was to don a 50 lb. backpack filled with fertilizer pellets and spread them alongside – called ‘side dressing’ – Christmas trees. Sounds fairly simple except that with the extra 50 lbs. I now was toting 350 lbs. on a nearly vertical slope, oftentimes falling my fat-self halfway down the mountain. The strain was nearly unbearable, so much so that I told a friend back home that I was thinking of trying to escape in the middle of the night.

Anyway, it was approaching 5:00 am – a wee bit early for a former prison chaplain – as I meandered outside the farmhouse for a whiff of cool mountain air. Traversing the ditch in front of the house I heard the faint sound of hooves pounding Byrd Road.  I wondered what could possibly be heading up the street at such an early hour…must be wild horses.  (Don’t laugh, how could I know?) When what to my wondering eyes should appear but ‘Daddy D’ Harrell, alongside a herd of cattle.

In my hometown of Hendersonville, I saw an occasional white squirrel or even a flock of turkeys on my street, but cows never. And it never occurred to me that a man of ‘Daddy D’s’ generation – nearly 94 years young – would be leading them. Clearly, he was too advanced in years to do this alone…’twas a job for Farmer ClintJ!

Learning ‘Cow-Speak’

Outside of these mountains one rarely thinks about such things as talking to cows. I mean, why would you? I always thought cows stayed in a big pen, you give ‘em some corn-stuff to fatten them up, then somebody turns them into grill fodder. Wrong answer!

As man and herd came ever closer to my location I could hear ‘Daddy D’ singing to the critters…’Sookeeee, Sookeeee, Sookeeee’. Now I hadn’t a clue what that meant but the bovine had no trouble translating. They trotted along as though he were their ‘Daddy D’ too.

Soon Doug sauntered down from the homestead and he, too, began speaking in a foreign tongue. But he said, “Hey-ohhhhhhhhhhhh….hey-ohhhhhhhhhh…hey-ohhhhhhhhhhhh”…what the heck was that about? Whatever it meant the hamburger on hooves ‘parlez vous’d’ his lingo and obediently followed.

Now, I ask you, given a similar circumstance – and feeling as though you needed to help – what would you do? That’s right; you make up your own Farmer Clint verbiage and establish your credentials among the thundering herd. Such was my approach….”HEAHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…HEAHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…HEAHhhhhhhhhhhhh,” I bellowed. And man did those cows fly in varied directions, as though I had called their mothers a bad name! The rib eyes scattered like roaches at a RAID conference…like chickens at a coyote ball…like mice at a kitty convention…you get the point. The serenity and calm of a summer’s morn became mayhem and madness about midway Byrd Road.

 

“Train Them Up in The Way They Should Go…”

It is difficult to describe the facial expressions worn by ‘Daddy D’ and Doug as their clump of cows dispersed like mosquitoes in a Deep Woods Off attack. Suffice it to say, their eyes were wide, their mouths turned up in a slight scowl…it was an eerie sight. As I trudged forward, tobacco stick in hand, ‘Daddy D’ motioned for me to approach.

I stumbled my behemoth body toward him, assuming he wanted me to help formulate a battle plan. He did, but I was an “extra” in this ballet. “Clint,” he said, “do you really want to help me with the cattle?” (Knowing full well that my deepest desire is to “fit-in”, to “be one with the farm”, to be drafted onto the team). Proudly, and with a wee bit of Farmer Clint panache I said, “You know I want to help!”

“Well, it’s like this,” ‘Daddy D’ began. “These cows don’t know you like they do Doug and me. I think someday they will, but for now the very best thing you can do is to go sit in that truck over there!” Deflated, dejected, feeling like cast-aside like dryer lint, I limped over to ‘Daddy D’s’ truck. He came to the window and said, “Remember, I’ve been moving cows my whole life…and that’s a longgggggggggg time.”

So, it was that my 94-year-old mentor gave me hope for a future as Farmer Clint the Cow MasterJ.

Since Then…

It’s been 5 years since my first “round-up” and I’ve learned a great deal about farms and their inhabitants.  For one thing, I’ve learned that I’m better at telling farm tales than I am at herding cows. Second, a man simply cannot inject himself into a wad of cattle without proper introduction and a bit of aptitude for such things. Finally, I’ve learned how to whisper softly “Sookeeee” and “Hey-ohhhhhhh” like a pro. Don’t get me wrong, the cows don’t follow, but they don’t scatter either. It won’t be long before I resemble Rowdy Yates on ‘Rawhide’, aka Clint Eastwood, moving the thundering herd over the plains!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, I lost 103 lbs. during my sentence – ooops I mean stay – at Harrell Hill Farms.

God is good!