What a great winter to milk cows. No major snowstorms to dig out from under. No lingering sub-zero temperatures to thaw out from. Winter is over halfway done, and it hasn’t been too bad. Spring is right around the corner, and we know any precipitation we receive now will quickly be gone. Of course, this has to be the winter we took off milking, but it is still working out. We’re enjoying the slower pace while we’re trying to find our new rhythm. Breaking our work loop was a great first step in a new direction. Wobbly and tentative but still a good step in a new direction. Don’t know where it is going to take us yet, but at least we’re moving in some direction.
I’m enjoying our time off this winter, but I really am missing a regular routine. Of course when I envisioned this break, I saw us traveling to visit family and friends. Trips to explore new areas and discover new ideas to old problems. In reality, we have been staying home for the most part, but I just couldn’t take it any longer. My uncle Sid passed away in mid-December, and I kept my distance to protect my families during the holidays. By mid-January, I was itching to hit the road. Loaded up with face masks and a large bottle of hand sanitizer, I headed south for home. I hadn’t seen my family in over a year. That was long enough.
While I was there, I was content to hang out at home with my mom. Just the two of us going through boxes of old family pictures, trying to put names of the past with the photos in our hands. Mom was not thrilled to go through our boxes of pictures, but as she discovered going through Uncle Sid’s stuff, if she didn’t, then these people would be lost to future generations. 
After a week of taking it easy, it was time to load up and head back to Minnesota. I brought back several family treasures. My grandmother’s icebox refrigerator. She used it to store cookies, pies and hide liquor bottles. My great grandparent’s International Harvester cream separator. I don’t think it was ever used. My great-great aunt Addie’s dining room set. It has been waiting for over 60 years to have a family gather around it again. Since we have all this free time on our hands, I thought Mark and I could find a new routine restoring and cleaning up my family treasures.
As I headed north between snowstorms across Iowa, my sister called to tell me that our niece tested positive for COVID-19. Before I made it home, I swung in to St. Cloud for a drive-thru COVID-19 test. Of course I came back positive as did my mom. So now I’m finishing up my quarantine period. As mom said, she’s been quarantined for 11 months already, what’s the difference? Luckily for both of us, it was a mild case, and we’ll be fine soon.
Once the family knew of our exposure, we have been receiving calls to check on how we’re feeling. The standard answer for both my mom and me is, “I’m fine.” Which reminds me of a story my cousin shared on Facebook. It is the story about Clyde, his favorite cow Bessie and a tractor accident. You can imagine overhearing the coffee club guys telling this story at the feed store.
A farmer named Clyde had a tractor accident. In court, the trucking company’s fancy hot-shot lawyer was questioning Clyde on the stand. “Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine,’” asked the lawyer. Clyde responded, “Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite cow, Bessie, into the …”
“I didn’t ask for any details,” the lawyer interrupted. “Just answer the question … please. Did you or did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine,’” Clyde said. “Well I had just got Bessie into the trailer behind the tractor, and I was driving down the road.”
The lawyer interrupted again and said, “Your Honor. I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the highway patrol on the scene that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident, he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.”
By this time, the judge was fairly interested in Clyde’s answer and said to the lawyer, “I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favorite cow, Bessie.”
Clyde thanked the judge and proceeded. “Well, as I was saying. I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite cow, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my John Deere tractor right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear old Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape just by the sound.
“Shortly after the accident, a highway patrolman came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning, so he went over to her. After he looked at her and saw her fatal condition, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes. The patrolman came across to road, gun still in his hand, looked at me and said, ‘How are you feeling?’”
“Now tell me, what the heck would you say?”
“I am fine!”
Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net