Branded Hearts

“They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.” – George Orwell

It’s not uncommon for fathers with calloused hands and skin like leather to keep their daughters locked away at home for as long as they can. They’ll talk about how their girls are turning into women and how they haven’t seen them since they got their licenses. They’ll joke about how one day they’ll come home to their daughters rooms – a mattress and a change of clothes and nothing else. Poof. 

In the brilliant bright light of a Sunday morning sunrise, I’m crouched on one knee with a rifle pressed against my shoulder and my hand, warm and tight, against its fore-end, waiting.

We lost our beloved Murphy just over a week ago and only a few short days after his passing I watched the blonde blur of our visiting fox drag away one of our chickens, the one we had nursed to health all winter long. Sitting there, on our porch, gun pointed toward a space between logs, my left foot and leg goes numb, my nose begins to run, my heart slows and I’m ready.

Life on the farm isn’t forgiving. It doesn’t care whether you’re hurting or in need of time or just some sunny days. It strikes you when you’re down and knocks dirt in your eyes, then it grabs you by the collar and asks you who you really are.

This week I’m the girl that didn’t think twice about taking a life to right a wrong, whether it’s right or wrong or somewhere in between. It’s all shades of gray and fits of rage and an eye for an eye, and turning your own cheeks red in embarrassment for believing there could ever be peace on earth.

This week, too, I pull the calf gate open and watch the velvety little body fight against the push and these words: come on sweetheart, everybody goes. She goes. And all at once gets locked into a fixed position and lifted off her feet to lay flat for branding. In the shower late that night I stand in water hotter than I can bear and smell shades of singed calf hair and remember the way the cream colored smoke rose and made all of our eyes tear. Go on, sweetheart I whisper beneath my breath as she runs toward mom out in the pasture, back where she came, forever changed.





4 thoughts on “Branded Hearts

  1. Lisa Gordon says:

    Oh gosh, Chelsea, this is difficult.
    However, I find myself thinking that I am glad that you are unable to just brush off things such as these. I am a true believer that it is far better to have a heart that hurts than to have one that cannot hurt.
    Sending you hugs and hopes that the coming days and weeks bring you some relief from the past days and weeks.


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