At the beginning of the winter season, the summer stacking of a few thousand sixty-pound bales of alfalfa nearly filled the space of the hayloft in the stock barn on our Todd County dairy farm. Toward the back of the barn, there would have been more than a dozen layers, tightly packed and stacked to hold the different rows together. The layers would gradually step down toward the front loft door, working around the tubular metal frame of a thirty-foot elevator that sloped up from the opening of the loft to the top of the stacked hay.
When the frosts and freezes of late autumn had stopped the growth of grass in the pasture, we’d start feeding the hay. Paul and I would break the bales open in the loft and kick down the heavy chunks through the openings that lined along wither side of the loft floor, working quickly so we could get back to heated space as soon as possible.
The cows would feed in the large space beneath us, jostling one another until all positions had been established. They stood and chewed heavy mouthfuls of cured alfalfa, giving no thought to us as we worked above them, feeding them the rich provision of our own labor.
Such indifference is a characteristic thoroughly understandable in livestock, somewhat less so in humans.