If Colorado could have shared some of its clean white December snow with us here in south central Indiana – and if we could have sent some of our overabundant fall and early winter rain to Texas – we'd all have been happier in 2006. But after celebrating Christmas on a brown and sodden landscape, and then watching helplessly as the weather actually became warmer and wetter, we saw in the local paper what the first of the new year was poised to offer – still more rain, slanting obstinately through the weather-page graphics. There was nothing to do but deal with it.
Even before the old year was gone, I took the currycomb to Ben, brushing his damp, dirtied coat back to something close to clean. He, at least, offered a new canvas for the muddy signature of 2007's opening. I'd have done the same for the cows if they would have stood for it as Ben did. The horse was almost statuesque in his concentrated appreciation of the rubber-toothed comb coursing over his back and flanks, under his neck, and down his chest. He even tolerated a delicate facial, the brush circling dust away from his wary but comprehending eyes. He knew I was doing this for him.
Not to neglect the cows, Charlie constructed a ramp through the deepest of the barnyard muck into the feeding barn. Normally suspicious of any new construct, they took to this one rapidly, filing into the barn across the cleated boards like passengers boarding a plane. When the sun did manage a brief showing, two or three bovines shared the ramp as if it were a tanning board. The others waited their turns in the hock-deep muck we can't do much about, since the barn was built slightly back from the rise of land it should have occupied for proper drainage.
When it becomes dry enough for the manure spreader, we'll cart some of the richness away for fertilizing the pastures.
Between the current series of rains, I helped things along by digging drainage channels where water had pooled. I was happily wallowing in tall gumboots around a newly constructed canal on New Year's Day when I suddenly wondered about the time. Charlie and I were planning to attend the swearing-in ceremony for newly elected county officials at the Bloomington, Ind., courthouse – a tradition for us and a pleasant civic exercise with friends and neighbors. We had just over a half hour to get there, I noted as I entered the kitchen and glanced at the clock. Charlie, lost in a book, hadn't kept track of time, either.
We would make it, our farm being only a 10-minute drive from the city square. But I thought of the "stuff" I'd been happily flinging and splattering about – without a hat. Would I be acceptable with a mere change of clothes? Charlie nosed my hair and declared that it smelled fine to him, and we both changed into the new outfits that had appeared over the holidays – our families, too used to seeing us in working togs, cannot resist the impulse to dress us up for town.
And so the new year found us well appointed under the glittering rotunda of the beautiful old courthouse as new judges, trustees, assessors, and county council, township, and school board members all took their oaths to fulfill their duties impartially and to the best of their abilities.
There were some muddy shoes in that overcrowded room. The rain rapped against the big windows at our backs even as the solemn, time-honored words were spoken. But for an hour, at least, the weather couldn't dampen the public's shared and contagious enthusiasm for new possibilities. After every oath – including those of the new board members from the small, rural townships – applause swelled.
If only these new government officials could now hunker down to business and legislate or adjudicate the arrival of some nice clean snow, followed by a week or two of sunshine.