There are days when going to the barn and doing chores seem an exercise in futility. A little tiredness expresses itself as a dull laziness; you delay a few minutes, then a few more, and then you find yourself near tears. Existential questions whirl in your head while you lace up your boots. Is this the purpose of my life? If I go out and milk the cows right now won’t I still need to go do it again in 8 hours? The cows don’t even appreciate me. Nobody appreciates me! The distance from exhaustion to pathetic whining is akin to a Slip ‘N Slide.
Thankfully in a big family there is always somebody around to snap you out of it. My poor little brother Danny was learning this at three years old.
“You don’t go to the barn, Sarah. No! I not go to the barn. You do not go to the barn. I not go.”
I sit down to lace up my boots. He stands in front of me, accentuating his demands with foot stomping and hand motions.
“Listen, dude,” I say calmly.
He gives me an alarmed look and starts to run. I lunge forward and catch him by the back of the shirt.
“Hey now, little man. You’re not the only one here who has better things to do.”
I host him up over my shoulder kicking and screaming and carry him outside. I set him down on the sidewalk. He wipes his face with his elbow. His eyes sparkle mischievously.
“We go get the cows?”
He is wearing some slip-on brown shoes, blue jeans, and his tan t-shirt with the orange graphic sketch of an octopus on it. His sandy blonde hair, slightly too long, is ragged-looking and accentuates his widows peak.
He trails five steps behind me as I walk through the barn to the corral. He could keep up with me were it not for his breath being used to talk. The constant stream of chatter follows me until the youngstock shed. There, it falters for a few seconds, is punctuated by heavy gaps, and finally dries up completely with a few little coughs.
There is a silence and then his voice carries thinly to me.
“Sarah! Wait for me,” he wails, coughing between statements. “You gotta wait for me.”
I turn and walk back the five steps.
“I wait for you, baby,” I say. I intend the pet name kindly, but it has the opposite effect.
“My name is DANNY!’ he yells, “AND, you gotta wait for me.”
He is marching past me angrily now. I grab him in a hug and kneel next to him.
“Hey, Danny, dude, look at me,” I say, turning his face to mine.
“WHAT?” he sniffs angrily and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand.
“You’re my brother, Danny, and I’m always going to wait for you. Okay? I always wait for Danny because I love him.”
He relaxes and reaches out to hold my hand. He is still upset and so launches into another tirade. It is mostly unintelligible. I make out enough to know that somehow dinosaurs and dragons have been dragged into the criticism of his older sister.
“You know, dude,” I comment lightly, “You wouldn’t fall behind if you didn’t talk so much.”
He flaps his hands back and forth at the wrists and widens his eyes and mouth into perfect circular shapes.
“Not talk?” he repeats, stomping into the ground with both feet for emphasis. He takes a few steps forward. “Not talk?” He flings out his hands, tilts his head to one side and cocks an eyebrow at me. “You talk!” he accuses.
Alrighty then. When a fellow doesn’t want to get the cows, he doesn’t want to get the cows. And sometimes you just deal with that.