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Week 13: September 7, 2001

Continued from previous page.

As I walked up frontier valley in the dark on my way to the Glenn cabin, the native New Yorker in me began to emerge: It is really dark here ... There are so many stars ... You never see stars like this in the city ... It is so beautiful. But actually, it's VERY dark ... and sort of scary. (Note: New Yorkers always think that quiet country places are scary, sort of "chop you into pieces" scary.) I continued to walk along in the dark, every few seconds chanting, "BEAR. BEAR. HELLO, BEAR. GO AWAY, BEAR," as we have been told it helps to make yourself known to bears -- they are less likely to come a-courting if they know you are there.

Finally, Erinn and Logan and I are alone in the cabin, exhausted. The idea of card games and laughs and flickering candles is fizzling out to total exhaustion. The kids have been doing hours of chores, I have been directing a movie, and there are dogs barking, cows mooing, and pigs grunting. Welcome to the "not so quiet" frontier valley. As we go to bed -- me in my nightgown and socks, the kids crawling up into their loft -- Logan says, "Night, Maro, I love you." You know what? This is pretty good. Making documentaries gives you such rare moments: you learn new things, meet new people, and wind up in places you never expected. I slept like a log.

Cut to 7:00 a.m. We have seriously overslept. We have chores. Erinn is quite the taskmaster and is telling us to "get a move on." Logan and I are sort of slow. We rush outside; we have to gather water from the creek for the chickens, pig, and sheep. The buckets are really heavy. I cannot even imagine how these kids can carry them, but they do. Then we have to feed all the animals. Uh oh, all the bags of feed are on the roof of the chicken coop, so we balance a ladder and I go up to get the bags; the ladder slips, the bag breaks, and the seed is pouring out fast; Erinn runs to catch it in another bucket. Finally, we feed the sheep, feed the chickens, and feed the dog table scraps. Time is ticking away -- the kids must leave by 8:00 a.m. to get to school by 8:30. It is now 8:15, and we still have to move the cow and calf, milk the cows, and put bag balm on their udders to keep them from cracking. As the three of us try pushing the calf and cows around the corral, the little calf is under its mother, and suddenly, "splat!" ... cow dung on the head of the calf. Logan thinks this is really funny, I think this is really gross, and Erinn thinks we are going to be late for school. Only the calf seems not to care at all.

Just as we are finally ready to leave, there is a break in the fence that surrounds the cabin, and cows of a local rancher are coming through and stampeding around the property! Logan and I start running around with the dogs and chasing the cows, trying to get them back out through the fence hole. Good luck. I am already exhausted and it's 8:45 a.m. Still no luck with the cows; I am panting and Logan is yelling at the dog to "nip their heels or something." Finally, we decide we have to leave -- this will take hours to resolve, and the kids worry that their teacher will not accept these "frontier" excuses for being tardy. If this is their every-morning routine, I don't know how they do it. It is really hard -- heavy lifting, hungry animals, dung-plopping cows, broken fences ... Erinn and Logan are taking this better then me. I am really impressed with how much they can do, how much they are willing to take responsibility and problem solve. I wonder if I could be as good-natured as they are being. As we walk off to start our day, I begin thinking that I will sleep in a bed tonight, maybe watch a movie, and wake up to an alarm clock; and they will be here, with the milking and mooing.

I was proud of them, and felt they were stronger then me. (I hope I was some help to them.) Living on the frontier is possible -- all you need is a sense of humor.


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