I am often asked what it is like in the barn in the winter. My response is usually, “It is not as cold as you might think inside and it is much colder than you can imagine outside.” Today, I got a different answer to the question care of Hugh.

Hugh is the grandfather on the farm, Roger’s dad, and he is now 94 years old. This winter has been particularly hard on Hugh with its prolonged cold and deep, persistent snowpack. Hugh’s eye sight is also failing and he is becoming less stable when he walks; a walker now is always close by his side. For the past two months Hugh has been house bound, not stepping off his porch since before Christmas. If its not the chilling wind or the icy path it is the whiteout he sees whether one exists or not. People stop in to visit all the time and Roger and Trish do a great job of taking care of him but still he is house bound, a hard pill to swallow for a dairy farmer when the barn is just a short walk away.

So Roger and I are in the barn this morning doing chores- Roger pretending to be busy milking four cows, me pretending to not want to know how I could help.

“So I saw something strange yesterday in front of the calf barn,” Roger says to me over a cow.

“What?” I cleverly reply.

“A walker! The old man came out of the house and went over to visit the calves.”

“Really? That’s great, Roger. I should go congratulate him.”

“If you wait a bit you can tell him right here…he’s on his way over.”

And sure enough as I go over and look out the milkroom window, there is Hugh, cane in hand, shuffling down the road to the barn. I go out to greet him and walk with him back to the barn. He is in good spirits, going slow but going steady, his tracks in the new snow like the sandy line of chevrons made by a turtle on a beach. Coming through the milkroom he heads for the middle of the barn where he stands, Yoda-like, leaning on his ski pole cane taking in the familiar faces.

“So, Hugh, what’s it like to be in the barn?” I ask.

He spits, considers for a moment, looks at me, smiles and says, “Smells like cows.”

Any other questions?