Friday, June 19, 2009

Lucy In The Barley

On January 27, 2009, I saw a sight that I have not seen in nearly 500,000 kilometres of driving my Super B Train all over Alberta and Saskatchewan – Lucy in the barely! It happened like this:
My twin trailers and tractor bounced and lurched over the uneven and frozen ground of the farmyard. I was there to pick up a routine load of barley. For late January, the day was balmy, but the temperature was still a touch below the freezing mark. A warm sun sparkled over the patchwork of snow and yellowed grasses causing me to squint, even with my sunglasses on. As I dragged my lead and pup trailers around a large pile of nature-chilled barley and under the spout of the waiting grain auger, a large dog bounded my way. Cody, the farmer, arrived on the dogs heels and I scrambled to open my trailer’s tarps while the auger motor roared into life. When I climbed back down to the ground, the massive head of the Great Pyrenees, hybrid-cross farm dog was waiting. Brindle-coated and friendly, the shaggy dog greeted me with a wagging tail and a gentle chew on my work gloves. I patted the big animal and then moved to help Cody.
A few normal minutes passed. The loading was typical. Suddenly, Cody’s son, Colin, and his uncle Murray wandered into the mix. It was a school day, but Colin had opted to avoid his sixth grade ski trip. Not to be outdone, Cody had quickly recruited his vacationing son to help us with the load. Lucy, the large dog, padded up to Colin for a little attention and then moved out of the way. On the shaded side of the pile, shovels and machines sang out in a concert of disorderly dissonance.
After several minutes, Lucy’s distinctive coat caught my eye. The big dog shambled to the sun-smitten edge of the pile of barley but didn’t stop there. She just kept on moving, climbing over the crusted edge of snow and plunging her paws into the upward slope. In seconds, Lucy floundered nearly to the peak of the pile of sun-warmed barley. Once there, the shaggy dog nestled her chest into the grain and dropped her chin to rest. I stopped shovelling long enough to use the camera on my phone to snap a photo. The sight was awesome!
For much of the loading, Lucy nested in the grain, moving her resting place from time to time. I was secretly jealous of her flaunted laziness. But as the pile diminished, a strange event took place. Kernel by kernel, Cody’s tractor blade pushed the pile towards the auger intake and, in turn, the auger slowly filled my trailers. Murray, young Colin, and I cleared snow from the edges of the pile and made certain to stand clear of the continual scraping of the tractor’s blade. With the shrinking of the pile however, docile Lucy became increasingly agitated. As the peak of the pile gently ran towards the ground, Lucy was forced to move. When the pile was only four feet in height, the big dog showed her colours. Instead of lying near the top of the pile, seemingly oblivious to our efforts, she took to lying exactly in the path of the tractor’s blade. It was with some effort that we got her to stay out of the way. It became obvious that the pile of barley belonged to her and that we were the intruders. Quite amazing how some animals act!