Sewing was fairly new to me, but that windy spring day, the rag doll I was stitching for my daughter seemed to be coming together all by itself.
As I sat in my rocking chair admiring my handiwork, I thought of all the other things I was learning to do since my husband, Dan, and I started farming. I'm a city girl, and growing up, my idea of a big animal was a German shepherd. Meeting Dan changed everything.
Early on in our dating, he told me about his lifelong dream to own a farm. As soon as we were married, and saved the money, that's just what we did.
The moment we'd set foot on this old dairy farm, smelled the scent of cattle in the milking barn, and looked out on the penned-in pasture with room for a hundred cows, Dan was sold. But was I? I wondered if I'd ever love farming as much as he does. Now, six months later, I wondered if I ever would.
Sure I liked the cozy farmhouse and the wide-open space, but the cattle were another story. "Don't cows kick?" I worried when I saw the huge Holsteins we were buying.
Dan laughed. "Don't be afraid," he said. "Just try milking a few times a day. You'll get used to them." Still I always kept our boys, Jared and Joshua, and our little girl, Jaime, from wandering too close to the fenced lot, and I kept my distance too. After six months on a dairy farm I still hadn't quite worked up the nerve to try milking a cow.
I put the last stitch in the black button that would be the doll's left eye. When I reached for the scissors, I heard the low mooing of the cows in their lot across the yard. They must be upset about something, I thought, snipping the extra thread. The window shook noisily in its frame. That wind is really picking up, I thought.
Then I heard the cows again, but louder. I glanced out the window. A storm was brewing. The sky was so dark that all I could make out were the tops of the trees whipping back and forth. I laid my sewing down and pressed my forehead against the cold windowpane. A huge black-and-white-splotched head swung against the glass, its pink nostrils steaming. A cow! I jumped back as it lumbered past the window.
Another cow passed, and a third one moved into view in the yard. "Dan!" I yelled—then remembered he'd gone into town. What was going on? I wondered. Why were the cows wandering around the yard?
An urgent knocking came at the door and I ran to open it. "Excuse me, ma'am," the man on the porch said, "but did you know your cows are loose?" I looked past him. Our front yard was nothing but cattle standing shoulder to shoulder.
The man at the door was a neighbor of ours, Roy Worker, who'd been riding his motorcycle when he noticed our cows.
"I didn't see how they got out," Roy continued. "They must be upset by the weather." The wind was whipping the branches of the trees hard, clearly scaring the big animals, who now ran through the yard into the unfenced pasture beyond. "Neither did I," I told Roy, "and Dan isn't home."
"I'll do what I can on my bike," Roy said.
Roy had already disappeared with his motorcycle by the time I got outside, and so had most of the cows. The sky was filled with low, swirling clouds, and the wind, as I followed the cows, seemed like a strong hand pushing me back. I struggled across the space between the house and the cow lot. Beyond, there was a cornfield, bounded on one side by our farmhouse and cattle lots, and on the other by the highway.
A terrible scenario took shape in my mind. The cattle, running straight across the field, would scatter pell-mell over the highway at a point where it curved sharply coming out of town. Whoever rounded that bend would find a hundred cows in the road!
Looking back at the house, I hoped to see the headlights of Dan's truck, but there was no one in the darkness. I was all alone. The wind howled in my ears as I shouted a prayer as if he might not be able to hear me above the din: "I need you, Lord, and I need you now!"
I had taken just a step when an enormous bolt of lightning shot out of the boiling mass of clouds, lighting up the sky like a thousand angels, striking the ground in front of the herd. A deafening clap of thunder shook the ground, and the hundred cows, as though in one movement, turned and stampeded in blind terror back across the field. But now they were coming in my direction!
Beside me there was an old gate leading into an empty lot. If I can just get it open, they might go through—back to the pasture and safety! I threw myself against the gate, pitting my 125 pounds against the force of the wind, pushing and feeling it give inch by inch. Got it! And all at once the cows were upon it, their massive bodies streaming through. I hung back behind the gate. In minutes, the stampede was over.
Every last cow had come through the gate to safety. I pulled the gate closed and walked slowly back toward the house. There was a light coming down the trail, and in a moment I heard Roy's motorcycle. He jumped off when he saw me and came running up.
"Did you see that lightning?" he shouted. "Have you ever in your life seen such lightning?" Roy had been waiting to cut the cows off just a few hundred yards away from the spot where it struck. He would have been no match for them.
"Thanks a lot, Roy. I'm glad I wasn't the only one to see it."
Back inside the house I assured the kids that things were under control, and when Dan got home, I told him the story.
"You rescued a whole herd of cows?" Dan said. "I'm impressed, Tana. But then again, I knew all along there was a touch of the farmer in you."
Lying in bed beside Dan, listening to the wind still whipping through the trees, I felt safe and secure, comfortable even, with farm life. There was someone watching over me, someone as real as this man by my side. I had seen God fulfill his promise, and I knew that if I called on him again, he would answer and deliver me in my time of trouble.
The next time I went out into the lot, I felt a little bigger beside all those black-and-white cows. And it wasn't too long before I started milking.