I arrived home from work and found Arnie standing at the kitchen counter making himself his favorite snack, a cheese and summer sausage sandwich. Pulling off my coat, I opened the entryway closet and hanging it on a hanger, commented, “There’s a sharp edge to the wind this afternoon despite the sunshine. Clouds are moving in from the west. Maybe tonight we’ll get our first snow.”
Taking a big bite from his sandwich, my husband replied with smug satisfaction, “It’s a good thing I made a point of pounding in the fence posts for our snow fence this afternoon. In the next few days, the ground will probably freeze and then it would be too late.”
Eyeing the last of the sandwich disappearing into Arnie’s mouth, I guessed, “You won’t be looking for an early supper tonight, so I’m going to change the bed and do the laundry before I start cooking.”
Looking out of the dining room window at the big blue barn across the yard, Arnie mused, “I should probably go out and feed the cattle now instead of later. The longer I wait, the less I’ll feel like going out there.” Busy with my own work, I wasn’t sure when he actually went to the barn.
My husband and I had moved our mobile home to this farm yard a few months earlier. The place had once belonged to Max and Leo Weigel, bachelor brothers. When age prevented them from working, a farmer Arnie had known all of his life bought the land, buildings and all. The original farmhouse was razed. In exchange for allowing us to live here rent free, it was Arnie’s job to watch and feed the cattle.
I loved the place and often went to the barn with Arnie. It reminded me of my childhood farm. The cattle were fun to watch and there were cats with kittens to play with.
Never looking at a clock, I worked around the house. By the time the bed sheets were nearly dry and I had most of my supper preparation completed, I suddenly stopped and wondered, “Where’s Arnie? Shouldn’t he have come back to the house by now?”
Feeling disturbed by my husband’s absence, I pulled on shoes and a coat before I stepped out the house door and ran across the yard to the barn’s west entrance. The young heifers mooed and crowded toward me. They were looking for attention. I looked down at their empty feeding trough. A cat came up and rubbed against my leg, her tail tickled my hand. There was no answer to my calls.
The barn was no longer outfitted for milking cows, it had been made into a loafing shed. A fence replaced the stanchions along the south side. The entire north side of the barn was one big pen. The entrance on the east side was open to the cow yard so the cattle could come and go at will. An old silo stood next to the east door, another silo stood along the south side of the barn and two blue Harvester silos stood next to the west entrance. I called out, “Arnie?” Still no answer.
Slowly walking along the empty feeding trough to the far end of the barn, I kept calling my husband’s name. Then I heard his voice calling back to me. I quickly realized what had happened when I looked at the base of the east side silo. Arnie was trapped by the silage he’d thrown down for the animals. It had plugged the long, narrow silo chute, his only exit route.
Grabbing a hay fork, I began digging the silage away from the chute. When Arnie was able to get through, he crabbed, “What took you so long to look for me? I waited and waited. It’s cold in the silo! At first, I tried calling for help.”
Arnie picked up a straw fork and began filling the feed troughs. Feeling bad for having lost track of time, I apologized and explained, “With all the windows closed in the house, I couldn’t hear you!”
As a peace offering, I added, “Anyway, a nice warm supper is waiting for us in the house.”
Sounding mollified, Arnie answered, “Good. I’m hungry again.”