Autumn has always been my favourite season. I love the rich palette of colours, the crisp freshness of the air, the clamour of geese honking their way over the horizon, and the mellow glow of sunrise. Oddly enough, this special time of year also makes me think fondly of manure.
Those of you who’ve read my columns in the past might know why I say that. For others, I’ll sound like a complete nut. I don’t blame you, but allow me to explain.
For many years I worked as a truck driver. I hauled a bit of crude oil, some containers filled with goods bound for the coast on the Canadian National Railway, and a whole bunch of cow manure when I worked for Bulldog Corral Cleaning.
For me, fall was the best time to be out in a stubble field with a load of muck. There was always something new to see. Perhaps it was a bald eagle posing at the tip of a tree or a ragged line of geese against a golden sky. Maybe it was the gentle eyes of white-tail deer staring at me before leaping into the shelter of a bush. There were always sights to enjoy.
Sure, the smell wasn’t so great, but I’m a rancher’s daughter. It was no big deal. Sometimes it was even a bonus. When I’d pop into the grocery store after work to pick up milk, people would fall over themselves to show me respect (or revulsion). I’d sweep down an aisle with my cart, and folks would rear back in alarm as I passed, leaping from my path to allow me a wide, unrestricted passage. And I was always urged to take a spot first in line. It was a bit like being royalty—well, kind of—in a revolting sort of way.
Thinking back to those days makes me happy. Sure every day wasn’t filled with the fun and frivolity of playing in cow dung. It was bloody hard work. By November, snow was on the ground, and frost was in the air. The twine that farmers used, to hold bales of cow feed secure, would fall to the ground and be mixed in with whatever else was underfoot. Then, when the manure etc., was removed by our trucks, the twine would get wrapped around the metal “beater” at the back and freeze solid. In warm weather, slashing it off with a banana knife at the end of the day was bad enough, but when wads of it were frozen solidly to the steel—it was absolutely horrible.
Then, my boss insisted that the trucks be kept clean. That’s all well and good, but using a high-pressure hose to blast several pounds of manure off a truck box, ain’t no picnic, people. Liquefied muck would plaster my glasses and run down my face and neck. My hair would become a sodden, dripping mass, and I’d be drenched, head to toe. It was ghastly. I can’t say I did it without loud and bitter complaints, but I did it.
However, as I rattled down a country road today and watched the first rays of dawn lighting up the prairie landscape, I wasn’t thinking about the unpleasant aspects of my previous job. Instead, I remembered rolling across a pasture in my truck and watching the sunrise glimmering through a bluff of golden poplar.
Granted, I might have been viewing it through a wall of flying cow manure, but what of it?
It’s all in our perspective.