T he majority of airline accidents occur in the plus three, minus eleven minutes of flight. The three minutes following takeoff or the eleven minutes prior to and during landing. Let's see if we can beat the odds.
C ollege began the takeoff phase. Young Odysseus had applied and was accepted to Cornell, sadly he would never rule Ithaca, as the family tide had turned for the worse. The era of small commercial dairy farms was ending. New regulations required that milk cows be stanchioned on concrete, and a system to accommodate bulk tank milk storage had to be implemented. Reconverting the wooden barn floor was cost prohibitive, and subsequently, the livestock were sold at auction. It was a somber day. My father was convinced of a future in raising beef cattle when another tragedy struck. This time from Mother Nature unleashing a bolt of lightning, setting the barn on fire, reducing the 110 x 52-foot post-and-beam edifice to charred skeletal remains and ashes. Dad managed to free the horses and then was nearly trampled to death as they ran back inside after being confused and frightened by the developing conflagration. Seeking the only safe refuge they knew, everything would be all right in the place they ate, slept, and were groomed. The two horses perished, along with a few remaining head of cattle. A good Samaritan stopped and pulled my father clear of the inferno. When I came home, it was heartbreaking, not only seeing the ruins, but seeing the ruin in my parents.
Much of me perished in that humongous pile of debris as well. I had spent nearly as much of my life inside that building as I had in our house. Teaching calves to drink from a bucket was my stand-alone chore. This would require immersing your hand in milk, allowing the calf to suckle your finger and then be fooled into taking a gulp of warm milk on its own. It required patience and determination, and it was the first arc in the ten-year circle of the critter's life. She would grow up, be bred, join the milking herd, grow older, fail to conceive, dry up (no milk), and be culled. Most of the meat was graded "utility," used for hamburger and filler by-products. If cows could talk, they would definitely advise humans to eat more chicken, or possum, or sushi even.
Argus would have to relocate, now that his lunch box was gone. The resident barn owl was a nightly sentinel in the upmost rear window where several missing panes of glass left exposed sash, providing an ideal perch to launch his war against vermanity. My father once remarked that the bird would get so fat he wouldn't be able to fly and the cats would catch him. His silhouette frightened me when I was a wee lad, but became an object of admiration, a fluffy talisman in the dark occult corners I dared not explore as a youngster.
The building itself was a formidable structure, constructed in the early 1900s, its standing and carrying timbers were hand-hewn beech logs mortised and secured by massive tenons. The loft was strong enough to support a pulley system for directing loose hay, brought to height and moved towards the rear by a U-shaped fork. The standing hay was first cut by a sickle bar mower pulled by horses, allowed to lie in place and dry before being windrowed by a side rake, so named because the rakes were set at an angle to the frame. The side rake arranged the previously cut hay into fluffy rows to further dry, enabling another machine, the hayloader, to fulfill its role in life. The hayloader was pulled behind a truck driven directly over the wind rows. It picked up the hay from the wind rows and moved it along the machine's backside via a serpentine link of protruding spring tines, letting the hay fall into the truck bed. Hapless kids usually got the job of riding in the bed, using forks to rearrange hay equally to allo