Solutions June 2018 - Page 14

A CALL FOR COURAGE BY MICHAEL ANTHONY If you want to raise good beef, you have to lower yourself to cleaning out the stalls. I learned this growing up on a small farm in the Garden State, New Jersey. Most of the time we were really good about keeping up with Suzie, Molly, and the other cows we named. Sometimes, though, we put off cleaning out the stalls, until, I’m almost certain, the stench reached to the high heavens, enough to nearly tempt Jesus to return to earth ahead of schedule. Sometimes the manure would amass until it seemed nearly impossible to find the concrete floor where the cows were making their deposits. But manure wasn’t the only thing they’d drop. Mixed with urine, it makes for a goopy mixture not easily forgotten, even decades later. I can still smell the steaming ammonia that ascended into my nostrils on a baking-hot July day—the day I finally remembered that it was my turn to clean out the barn. Being young enough to be irresponsible and foolish enough to think there was a swift way to make up for lost time, I 14 • Solutions didn’t think much about what I’d wear. The point was to finish fast so I could get back to my outdoor classroom: the creek, trees, fields, and pastures where I learned about life not by reading books, but by grasping it with my hands and feeling it between my toes. A shovel, pitchfork, and a pair of well- made rubber boots are essentials when cleaning a barn, but they are by far not the only necessities. That day I decided to throw those galoshes onto my feet without the comfort of a pair of socks. No time for that—and no need. There are some things in life that can only be learned by making a mistake, and I was about to make one that truly stunk. Swinging wide the gate that kept the cows contained, I ventured in. Boots on, shovel in hand, head down in firm resolve, I stepped forward, heading toward the far side of the barn. I determined I would start there, then work my way closer and closer to where I had entered, shoveling one soggy scoop after another. Three steps in, the suction on my boots reached