August's Farm, part 4 of 5
August didn’t know how long he’d been sleeping when Sonny woke him up with frantic barking. The dog was at the back door raising such a disturbance that August felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and a chill move through his body. Without turning on the kitchen light, he stared out the back door, trying to see into the storm. Two or more feet of snow had accumulated on the three steps down to the yard. With effort August pushed open the door. He could make out the light from the barn, in the seconds between two gusts of snow-filled wind.
At that point, Sonny leaped past him out the door, barking with fresh energy and lurching through the snow.
“Sonny, what in the world? Get back in here, boy.” His voice disappeared into the whirling cold.
August put on clothes and boots. There was no way he would get back to sleep now, and he needed to fetch Sonny and may as well check on the other animals. He took a flashlight with him and made careful steps across the yard and toward the glow in the barn.
As he got close to the barn’s entrance, a strange shriek burst from inside. What would make a mule or cow sound like that? August hopped the last few steps over the snow and hurried inside.
Harry stood alert but calm on one side of the corral, and Moony did the same. Both beasts looked across to a corner where much of the hay was piled, as another cry of pain erupted from that very spot. August turned to see, and nearly cried out himself. There on the hay, a coat underneath her, a girl with dark eyes and hair lay half-naked, legs splayed open to reveal a moist, bloody opening. August was familiar with this sight, at least in the realm of farm life. How many calves had he helped into the world? He realized then that a young man knelt next to the girl. It was hard to say who looked more frightened. They saw August in the same instant, and the fear in their eyes turned into a plea for help.
“How close are you, honey?” August knelt on the other side and looked into her face rather than down below.
“We’re not sure,” said the young man. “We thought she had a couple more weeks, but our car went into the ditch about a half mile back—“
The girl stiffened and moaned. August instinctively put a hand on her arm. “How far apart are your pains?”
“Oh.” She had to take another breath to finish. “They just keep coming . . .”
“My phone couldn’t get a signal out here,” said the boy. “We decided to try and walk to the nearest house. Do . . . do you think her walking through the storm started the labor?”
“I don’t think that would have made much difference,” said August, who had turned his attention to the birth itself, and recognized wet, dark hair pressing against the opening.
“Can we get her to a hospital from here?” asked the boy.
“No, son—look there. That’s the baby’s head.”
“The head?” The girl’s eyes widened. “You mean it’s happening now?”
“It sure is.” August positioned himself to help the little creature’s journey. He could feel the young man’s eyes fix on him. The voice shook.
“Mister, have you done this before?”
“Not for a woman, but for lots of livestock. I think the process is pretty similar. At any rate, this baby’s coming, and it’s miles to a hospital, and even my truck couldn’t get through this storm.”
It grew quiet then, as his words sank in, and the animals breathed into the space, and for just a few moments the wind let up. The girl and boy—or, mother and father—looked so terrified that August remembered to smile at them. He directed the boy to support the girl from behind. He patted the girl’s leg, much as he often patted Harry or Moony. “When the baby moves, you just push and try to help it along. Everything looks fine, honey. This your first child?”
They both nodded.
“Well, you’ll have quite a story to tell, won’t you?”
For the first time, the girl smiled.
It was all over within the hour. A tiny girl announced her displeasure to Harry and Moony and Sonny and the doves, who woke up for the finale and began a soft, pebbly chorus. After the infant had cried for a minute or two, August placed her on her mama’s tummy. He went back to the house for blankets and towels, and they bundled up mother and child and carried them to the house. Once mother and daughter were settled on August’s bed, he called the sheriff.
“We need a snow plow over here, Mike,” he said. It took him a couple of minutes to explain the situation.
“I’ll see if Darla Jenkins can ride over with Arnie,” said the sheriff. “If need be, he can get them over to St. Michael’s.”
After he hung up, August delivered the news to the little family in his bedroom. “We’ve got a nurse coming over here with the snow plow. They can take you to the hospital in town, about eight miles west of here.
Everyone was smiles now, and profuse thank-you’s, which August waved off. He managed his embarrassment by going to the kitchen to heat water for tea and put some treats on a plate. Amy wanted a glass of water, but her husband, Jay, enjoyed the cookies.
“Why didn’t you just come up to the house?” August asked.
“We didn’t see the house. The snow was blowing so hard, all that showed up was the light from the barn. We thought it must be a house, and by the time we got to the door and realized what it was, Amy needed to lie down.”
The girl and baby soon fell asleep, wrapped together in the bed. Jay watched them for awhile and then came to sit in front of the television with August and Sonny. “They both seem okay,” he said, some anxiety in his voice. “But I’ll feel better when the nurse gets here.”
Copyright © 2008 Vinita Hampton Wright