For the love of fresh air

I am crazy about  the outdoors. If there is a chore on the farm that requires being outside, I am Johnny-on-the-spot. I’ll gladly check the cows, mend the fence or hoe the garden.  

During the hot, humid days near the Fourth of July when the sweet corn is ripe, I’ll eagerly find the plumpest ears for corn on the cob, gathering bucketsful to eat and give to neighbors. 

When it’s time to rake hay, my husband says, “Take the cab tractor.”  But I choose the old D17 Allis Chalmers and go chugging along. With only my billed hat for shade, I savor the fresh scent of breeze-dried clover and the touch of sunshine on my suntanned arms.  Afterwards, I scramble into swimwear and take a plunge in the cool water of a nearby pond.

And, on a bitter cold night, with a bright moon illuminating the way, I will trudge merrily to the barn to see if an expected baby calf has been born and needs to be warmed.  

Be it work or play, give me the open sky. And, in my mind, no sky is better than the one over my home in Illinois. Here sunshine caresses, rain refreshes, wind exhilarates and hailstones massage (just kidding about that last one).  

I must admit, there are certain aspects of the outdoors I regard with aversion, like chiggers! Still, the pull is so strong that most mornings I am dressed and out the door quickly, ready for the fresh air to touch my face. The best days start with zipping up a hooded sweatshirt and end with trying to remember where at noon I cast it off.  

When I must be indoors, I long to be out.  I can hardly keep from flinging open the windows. Let the sunlight fade the rug. Let the gusting wind toss papers off the desk. Let the coyotes’ howls resonate in the room at night.

A few years ago, a horrible winter snowstorm struck. The wind howled, temperatures plummeted, and snow drifted. My husband, son, and I worked to herd an expecting mother cow into the barn. We knew that the forecasted nighttime low of 12 below zero could kill a newborn calf, even in the barn. 

So, we took turns dragging ourselves out of warm beds and into the bitter cold, just in case the baby calf might need to be brought into the house and warmed. We trudged, flashlights in hand, through the deep snow to the barn every two hours that night and again the next and the next.  

The cow had still not calved. Finally, the weather improved to temperatures above zero and winds calmed, so we decided our nighttime vigil was no longer necessary. “Finally. A good night’s sleep,” I thought.

Crazy me, shortly before midnight I woke and decided to slip into my coveralls (or rather, layer on all the winterwear I own) and sneak out for a chance peek at the hoped-for newborn calf.  And there he was! Just fine! He was nursing with gusto; his mother busily licking him clean and dry.

As I walked back toward the house, the bright first quarter moon, low in the western sky, illuminated my way and cast my shadow long upon the ground. Under that crisp, clear wintertime sky, a wild urge came over me.  I hopped and skipped, and so did my shadow.  I giggled and wiggled, and so did my shadow. 

I sure am glad no one saw me! My love for the outdoors knows no bounds.