There are people that we meet in this life who, for reasons that we are not smart enough to understand, hold a special place in the compost of our memory. They are there all the time but every so often something will happen that will bring them to the top of the pile and every time the memories are richer. This little tale is about two of those people.
When I met Mr. Bud in the winter of 1959 he was an old man and I was a young sprout with a wife and two babies. Betty and I had rented 100 acres and an old house up the road from where Mr. Bud lived. The place we had rented was on what was called Bank Street Extension. If you got on this street in town it ran from the main street down the side of the bank and ended in front of Mr. Bud’s house about three miles later down on the edge of the Comite river swamp. Mr. Bud owned about 200 acres that was about half hills and the rest hard wood swamp along the Comite River. He was too old to farm anymore but he had about 100 head of cows and still put up hay. All of the haying was hired out and the cow work was done by the neighbors.
Pete Wilson lived with Mr. Bud. Pete was a bachelor, not kin by blood, but Mr. Bud had been a long -time friend of Pete’s daddy. I never heard the story of the why of it but I always had the feeling that there was a lot to this story that was never told but things being like they were there was just some questions best left unasked. What most of us know about other folks is mostly what they want us to know or at least how they want the story told. Not that it makes any difference in this narrative, but I never knew why with family in town that Pete lived with Mr. Bud.
Pete started stopping at our place, but we were not friends, just new neighbors getting to know one another. You know how dogs do when they first meet, they kind of walk easy, sniffing and trying to feel each other out. This is not a fair comparison and I do not want to equate Pete’s visits to a dog sniffing around. I reckon what I’m trying to say is that we were in the getting to know you stage of our friendship.
Late one cold, rainy evening, Pete came to the house and asked if I would help him get a cow up that had gotten stuck in the mud. Naturally I said I would, so we went down to Mr. Bud’s place. This was my first trip to the bottom and this is when I met Mr. Bud. It was cold. Down here in Louisiana anything below 40 degrees is cold, but that morning it had been about 20 degrees. Have you ever been so cold you cannot move? Your feet hurt, your face burns, and your ears hurt and then your hands don’t work right. It was that kind of day when me and Pete went to the bottom to get the cow out of the mud. We got down there just before dark. Damn it was cold. We knew we had to get down in all that mud and water to get the old cow up, but lord, we wasn’t looking forward to it. The hardest thing about doing something like this is getting started, somewhat like jumping in the creek in the early spring. It ain’t so bad after you get in.
I pulled off my coat and rolled my shirtsleeves up as far as I could, and me and Pete finally got into the thing and got serious about trying to get the old cow up. We had to get down on our knees in all that mud to be able to reach down her legs to find out what the hell was wrong. With mud and water and ice up to our asses on one end and mud and water and ice up to our armpits on the other end, we finally found out what was wrong. Someone had failed to cut a hay string when they took it off the bale. The cow had stuck both back feet in the loop and it had tangled so bad it took her down and she couldn’t get back up. She was about froze to death when we found her. Me and Pete got the string cut off her legs and rolled her on her side but she was in such a bad shape there was no way she was going to get up. We had to get a tractor with a lift boom on the back of it to get her up so we could put her in the barn. After we finally got her in the barn we made a sling of feed sacks to go under her belly so we could hang her up in a standing position but so her weight wasn’t on her feet and legs.
I don’t know if it’s because they are in such a bad shape when we finally get them hung up or what, but I have never been involved with this operation when it was a success. So it was in this case. After about three days we ended up putting the old girl out of her misery and drug her to the swamp for the varmints and buzzards to do their job. This was back yonder before DEQ and EPA and all of the animal rights people, so we could just let nature take over and clean up our mess.
There’s not really a big moral or some point to this story except that when you needed help someone was always there. This didn’t happen so long ago, hell I’m not that old, but if you figure the way we lived then and the way we live today it was long ago and far away.
Me and Pete became very close friends after the froze cow incident. We hadn’t been living on this place very long before it happened, so we really didn’t know one another that well. We were not successful saving the cow but I had passed the test, I would get in the mud.
After the froze cow incident me and Pete spent a lot of time together. We ran many a cow in that hard wood swamp on Comite River and fought a lot of old, crazy cows in those thickets. You needed a pard you could count on not to run off and leave you in a bind when it got rough. Pete was that to me. That was over 50 years ago. We went in different directions so we didn’t see one another these last few years. Pete is gone now and buried somewhere in Alabama. But after the night of the froze cow I would have bet anything if I had a cow in the mud and I called Pete he would have come. I know I would have if he did.