Monday, January 28, 2019

Secrets in the Haymow


Warning: This blog contains mature content that may be triggering.

The effects of being raped and the emotions it produces are more complicated than a lot of people might realize. I remember all too well the mixed feelings I often had when my "dad" would come for me.


His visits often came at strange times, such as during chore time. My siblings and I would take turns going up to the haymow to throw hay down for the cows. While one of us was doing that, the other two would distribute the hay for the cows to eat. Between the ages of 11 and 15, my “dad” would often come up when I was the one in the haymow and have his way with me.


Those times up in the haymow are some of the most memorable, and definitely not in a good way. I was trying to do my job – because there would be severe repercussions if I didn’t do it correctly – and then my “dad” would show up. I had a love-hate relationship with seeing him enter the haymow. I knew he was there to rape me. Of course, I didn’t know that word at that age and didn’t even considered it rape until I was much older. But even though I knew what he was going to do to me, it was good to see him – because he was there just for me. He thought I was someone special, his little girl. The other part of me, the part that knew this wasn’t really right, was scared and nervous about what would happen. Often when he came to interrupt my work, he would be quick so that I could get back to my job. He would pull down my pants, no matter what the temperature was outside, and then he would pull down his own pants just far enough to pull out his penis. Then he would lay me down on a bale of hay or shove me up against a wall and rape me.


Everything would happen quickly then, and I remember him spasming in orgasm. It all seemed so weird, though I wouldn’t really think about it until I was older. I just remember feeling gross after he spasmed on top of me. When he was done, he would just get up, put his penis back in his pants and zip up. I would just be lying there, and eventually, I would get up as well. I never had any kind of towel or napkin or anything, so I would pull up my pants while semen was rolling down my leg. I would have to continue doing my chores – for several more hours – like this. The winter months were the worst because the semen would get cold REALLY quickly and feel as though it were frozen on my leg. But no matter what time of year, the sticky substance made it hard to focus on my chores.


No matter where it happened – in the haymow or in the bedroom – being raped was an emotional rollercoaster. I was just a kid, and the man who should have been protecting me was abusing me instead. It made me feel special, and it made me feel wrong. It would be a long time before I could make sense of it all.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Price of Childhood


Warning: This blog contains mature content that may be triggering.


Watching from above became my new normal for the next several years of my life. I would watch this girl like she was someone else, all the while knowing she was me and that I didn’t have the power to stop anything that was happening to her.


One moment I would be a kid and the next I would be living a nightmare. For instance, if my siblings and I wanted to ride our bikes into town to hit up the only store there - to get ALL the candy - we would need adult permission. After all, we were only 10 to 12 years old. However, that adult permission came with a pretty big price. At least for me.


Looking back, it seems like I was more of an object than a person at that age, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. If we were to get permission to ride our bikes into town, I would need to be the one to ask my “dad,” and nine times out of 10, he would say, “Yes.” Of course, that, “Yes,” only came after he would have his way with me. He would lay me down on his bed and either perform oral sex on me, as I have previously mentioned, or he would take things even further.


Him going past the touching and oral stuff was something I didn’t talk about much when I was younger but have started to open up about more as I get older. I want it all out there. I want people in my life to try to understand how terrible life was and how the things that happened to me were really hard to talk about.


As I have mentioned before, my “dad” would often pick me up like a “sack of potatoes” and take me into my parents’ room. Then, it would start with him performing oral sex on me. However, that would quickly progress into something more. He would lie on top of me and French kiss me with his nasty tobacco mouth while he was naked, and before I knew it, he would be inside of me. The first time it happened was shocking. I can’t say I remember the specifics, but a part of me liked it and felt wrong all at the same time. This feeling persisted every single time he did it.


The good news is that, after he would rape me (his own “child”), he would give me the permission I had asked for so my siblings and I could ride our bikes into town. Sometimes, I would even get a little extra spending money so I could get more candy! So, you know, I suppose I won … right?


I was suddenly a kid again. For the time being.


Soulfire Gala in Lansing, MI 2017
This artwork represents my healing journey. See artist description below.

Airborne: The piece is about the cosmic bond between Trudy, her sister, and her brother and the strength they conjured to lift themselves from their trauma. The tree is a special symbol for Trudy and her sister, symbolizing rooted strength, growth and new beginnings. Marked in the tree you can see the term "give up" crossed out which is a reminder Trudy uses in her daily life to eliminate possibility of succumbing to defeat.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Running Away to Find Myself

Sometimes, life just gets to be too much, and some alone time seems like the best response. The farm had many places where I could go to be alone. Some places were actually hidden and others were just less-frequented by others. I loved going under a lifted ledge in the hayloft because it seemed close to everyone, yet no one would look there. There were a ton of spider webs, so sometimes that spot was even too scary for me. There was also an alternate side of the hayloft that wasn’t used much at that point in my childhood. It was very weak and couldn’t sustain a lot of weight, but I liked to test my luck to see if I would fall through it. Other times, I would hide between silos, in giant tractor tires or even in mounds of big, round straw bales. Sometimes I would make hidden forts in the straw stacked in the hayloft. There was also a spot I liked in the barn where we stored most of the food for the cows. It wasn’t really super hidden, but I could ball myself up so no one could see me - and when I was there, I could overhear conversations among the adults. When I was alone, I did a lot of thinking; sometimes it was more crying about things I couldn’t change. Mostly, I acted out every scenario I could think of to deal with a situation that was happening around me. Many of my thoughts centered around whether or not I would be missed if I just disappeared. I would try to stay hidden for as long as possible to see if it made any difference, even in the short-term. Life moved on. Every time. Like it truly didn’t matter if I were there. But that changed one day in the summer between third and fourth grade. I didn’t just hide in a simple place around the farm. I actually went out farther. I was so mad at Tracy for not wanting to play with me. She chose to play with Fred instead. Fred was the enemy. It hurt me so much that I just wanted to disappear and never play with either of them again. So I packed up some of my favorite toys, tied them to a stick like a "hobo lunch" and headed out. I ventured far out into one of our corn fields. Honestly, it wasn’t that far, but as a kid I thought it was really far away. It took a while for anyone to notice I was missing, but once they did, it was kind of pandemonium around the farm. EVERYONE started calling my name and searching for me. I even saw people go down the path next to the corn field, but they never looked into the corn. I was only a few rows into the field and was kind of laughing as I listened to all of this. I just sat there with my toys and played with them and drew with a stick in the dirt around me. It was a fun time for me. Then, I heard more voices! They had called my cousin’s whole family out to help search for me. I still didn’t come out of my hiding spot. I figured if they really wanted me, they would need to locate me and make me leave. I don’t remember who actually spotted me, but once I was found, I was taken to the house and Mom and “Dad” had a conversation with me about how scared they had been and how they had thought they had lost me. They asked me to never run away again. It felt nice to be loved wholly - even for those few moments. I even felt a little guilty because they said they had been about to call the cops to help try to locate me. However, even though my parents had said they would never want to lose me or have me run away or be out on my own, they ended up getting very upset with something Tracy and I did not much later - and actually TELLING us to run away. I think my feeble attempt at running away sparked some kind of response in them and put this idea in their head, leading to this strange command. On that day, Tracy and I were happy to be running away together. We decided we would go to our cousin Joey’s house and everything would be so much better once there. However, Mom and “Dad” said if we were going to run away, we couldn’t go together. So they actually told us to go to the end of our driveway and then to go in opposite directions. We both knew that either way would eventually lead us to Joey’s house, so we were still set to carry out our plan. After being out for only about 20 minutes, Mom drove a car to pick us up and bring us back home. She got Tracy in the car first and then turned around to come get me. When I saw it was her coming to get me and force me to come back home, I took off running. Of course, I had little-kid legs and couldn’t go far, but it felt good to rebel against my parents in that way. After that summer, I never attempted to run away again. I just went back to finding my hiding spots and spending time alone to think about my scenarios. In a way, I still do that today. I still find a way to hide away in order to seek solutions. Being alone in nature is one of my favorite ways of doing this. Maybe it stems from these times of hiding and just thinking about my life and seeking out answers. If I can work out a scenario in my head, then maybe it will be OK in real life, even if the scenario is rarely as I originally expected.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Battle Royale

Sibling fun. Trudy and Fred with Tracy off-camera holding Fred's face
If you have a sibling, then I’m sure you have experienced some sibling rivalry. And, I’m sure there have been times when you have hated having a sibling or maybe even wanted to hurt them. That was the same for us. Our lives may have been different in many other ways, but the sibling rivalry was there, and it was there in force!


From a very young age, Tracy and I were always viewed as one so we almost always fought as one as well. Even with two of us, Fred was unbearable! He was the meanest brother around and would beat us up any chance he could. He not only would beat up Tracy and me, but he also would beat up our cousin, Joey, and treat him poorly because he was so close to us. I don’t think Fred liked that there were three of us, so he would beat us up to prove that having more wasn’t always an advantage. Maybe it was just that we were all too scared of the consequences to fight back, so we always were the victims and Fred would get the worst of the punishments.


There were so many things that would provoke Fred to beat us up. Most of the time it didn’t make sense the things that would cause so much fury within him. If he felt left out because he didn't know what we were laughing about, that could cause him to beat us. If we said a swear word, that could incite a beating. If we didn’t help with his chores, he would beat us. If he was chasing us and we ran faster than him, he would wait for the perfect time and beat us up. Basically, anything we did on the farm could cause Fred to beat us up. It just depended on what kind of mood he was in. He rarely caused any real damage, which was usually more infuriating than if he actually had. He would punch, kick, hit or slap us, but there were rarely bruises that could be seen. Without bruises, there was no proof and therefore no punishment for Fred, but Tracy and I would get in trouble for tattling.


Sometimes when Tracy and I would tell on Fred but have no proof, the adults would find new ways to punish us. They would have whoever told on the other kid hold hands while doing chores with that kid. So, if I told on Fred for beating me up, they would make me hold his hand while milking the cows. It was annoying because it forced us to be even closer to the enemy.


When I was a kid, I basically had no muscles, but I was super fast. So many times, Fred would get mad at something Tracy or I did, and I would get him to chase after me instead of Tracy and I would run fast and far. He rarely caught me. It was truly terrifying because I knew that if he did catch me, he would beat the crap out of me, and I would be in a lot of pain. I literally could run for a few miles around the farm before he gave up and decided catching me wasn’t worth it. If only I had that speed now!


There were a few times when Tracy and I actually caused harm to Fred. The difference was, when we really hurt him, we felt bad. There was one time we were all kind of rough-housing around one of the metal beams in the barn where the hay was stacked and ready to feed to the cows. Well, it started out as fun until one of us pushed Fred too hard and he fell back HARD against the metal beam. His head was bleeding and it looked really bad. Turns out he had to go to the emergency room and get stitches. Of course, that was an extreme incident, and we both felt bad about it. I’m pretty sure we were both pointing the finger at each other, so I can't really say who was the one to actually push him that final time when he hit his head.

Most of the time, Tracy and I didn’t fight with each other or hurt each other, but of course, living on the farm, we did fight occasionally. And even when we weren’t fighting, there were accidents. I have lead in my body as a reminder of two of these times Tracy decided to get rough with me. Once, she was doing homework on the bed and told me to come up with her to do my homework. She had her #2 pencil pointed upward, and I didn’t see it when I jumped on the bed, and the point went deep into my knee. That spot is a pretty significant mark even to this day. It’s kind of fun to have this war wound, though, and I get excited to tell people about it. The other spot of lead in my body is in my upper arm. Tracy was playing doctor with a mechanical pencil and ended up pushing too hard when “giving a shot” so the lead went in and broke off in my arm. This spot is much smaller but can still be seen to this day.

Probably one of the more extreme incidents on the farm was something I did. Fred was being his normal annoying self and acting like he was better than Tracy and me. It was the summer, and we were a little older, 13 and 14, so we had the task of cleaning the pens. To someone not familiar with farms, this means nothing, but cleaning pens was the worst job ever. Poop was literally a couple of feet deep, and it could have been there a long time. We would have to get through the hard exterior layer to get to the stuff that was underneath that was easier to scoop out. This job was done using pitchforks and, I’ll say it again, it really sucked! For some reason, Fred thought he didn’t have to help us, and that pissed me off. He came by taunting us about the work we were doing and the fact that he wasn’t helping, and I just couldn’t handle it. So I took my three-tined pitchfork and heaved it at Fred like a freakin’ trident! It flew hard and fast, and I’m SO thankful that Fred jumped out of the way just in time. It missed him but went deep into the tire of the car that was parked behind where Fred stood - my “grandma’s” car. We worked together to pull it out of the tire, and then Fred joined Tracy and me and we diligently cleaned the stalls until we were granted a break. Shortly after the pitchfork was removed from the tire, “Grandma” took the car to go visit her mom. We later found out that she had to get it towed because the tire went flat. We never told anyone what happened. All the adults assumed that she must have run over one of the large nails that were around the farm. Honestly, I can’t say that I even feel bad about puncturing her tire. I would have felt bad if the pitchfork had hit Fred, of course, but I was kind of laughing that it went into her tire.


As we got older and learned more words, especially swear words, we would say them just to see how the adults would respond. Mostly, the adults didn’t care. But Fred, he cared. He was constantly telling Tracy and me to respect our elders (because he viewed himself as an elder, at 14 months older than us) and would get PISSED if we directed a swear word at him. This would incite a beating if he was close enough to conduct one. There was one time he was driving us home from school and one of us said something he didn’t agree with (likely we were swearing). He was furious that we wouldn’t apologize, but he was driving so he couldn’t do much. He literally pulled over on the side of the road and spit at us! The giant wad of snot stuck to the side of the van. It was disgusting! And then he continued driving home. We hated him for the majority of our childhood and into early adulthood.


Eventually - several years into college - our relationship evened out, and we were able to treat Fred as a normal person and not the mortal enemy (and vice versa). But back on the farm things always seemed like a battle for survival, and hopefully these stories provide some insight into how sibling rivalry can take on a whole new do-or-die meaning for farm kids.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Living That Bullied Life

When I was growing up, there were bullies in school, but bullying was something that was kind of glossed over. It wasn't really an issue that was discussed much, which meant I had to deal with bullies without really having a word for the problem or an understanding of why people would be so mean to my siblings and me. Of course, I knew the specifics of why people made fun of us - we were the “stinky farm kids.” However, there was really nothing we could do to avoid being stinky. Since we lived and worked on the farm, it was hard for us to even realize we smelled bad. To us, it was just life.

During our elementary school years, kids didn’t seem to DIRECTLY taunt us too much about being stinky, but they still WHISPERED about it around us constantly. We started to be very aware that we were being talked about and would tell our parents, but nothing changed. Our parents, mostly “Dad,” would say that they would “show them,” but they never did anything. It was mostly a lot of talk from those who should have protected us. We still had to help with chores before school but weren't allowed time for baths or showers before we had to run to catch the bus. There was never even talk about changing our schedule so we could bathe daily; we were told we could only take baths every other day. So we would wear zip-up hoodies with the hoods tied tight around our faces or wear bandanas tightly wrapped around our hair to try and protect the stink from reaching us. Now I know that no matter what we did, the smell would permeate all layers and there was no getting away from it - unless we stopped working all-together.

By the time we made it to middle school, the bullying had reached an all-time high, and it was basically a nightmare to go to school every day. My place of escape had lost its glamour because kids were so evil. We continued to do what we could to not smell bad, which included wearing perfume and lots of deodorant, but nothing really removed the smell. 

Not only were we the stinky kids, but we missed the first day of school in sixth grade! Sixth grade was the first time we left our tiny school, where we knew everyone, to go to a large school that included children from three other schools. At the end of fifth grade, two of the best friends Tracy and I had suddenly became friends with each other and ditched us. So not only did we start in a new, larger school, where we had no idea where our classes were (this was the first time we changed rooms for each class, too), but we also had no friends outside of each other. Tracy and I didn’t have any classes together that year either, which sucked. 

Every year in middle school, we were assigned lockers. Sometimes we could pick a locker partner, and sometimes one was assigned to us. Having lockers for the first time turned out to be dreadful. Lockers were places where people did evil things and made us feel absolutely terrible. We had many car fresheners tied to our jackets, and we had room freshener sprayed all over our things daily. We would also find notes calling us “stinky” and telling us to take a shower and clean ourselves. The bullying didn’t stop at our lockers. We were also called names as we walked down the halls, and we were sprayed as we walked quickly from our lockers to our next classes. I still loved school, when I was in a class, and it was still better than being on the farm, but I hated the feeling of constantly being on edge and wondering what would happen next as I walked down the halls or went to my locker.

We didn’t just suffer while walking the halls of school. Kids thought it was fun to do mean things to us from the moment we got on the school bus until the moment we got off. Sure, there were some days when we were left alone. But more often than not kids would bring room freshener, body spray or perfume and spray us the minute we sat in our seats. Sometimes the spray went in our eyes, but it never seemed to matter. I don’t recall any kid ever getting in trouble for bullying us. However, it may have been that we didn’t ever tell on them because we didn’t want to be labeled as snitches. What I do know is that if I was ever given a chance to go back and relive any of my younger years, I'd pass.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Great Escape

I always felt differently about school than other kids did. Growing up on a farm made me both love and hate school


Going to school meant I would see how other kids got to live and all the things they got to own. We were always poor, and we couldn’t afford any of the new toys. So there were many times we would just watch as other kids played. We couldn’t really join in unless the games used imagination. But that all changed one day in first or second grade when our mom FINALLY bought Tracy and me each a My Little Pony figurine. We were so excited to have toys like all the other girls in our class, so we took our ponies to play with the girls. But at some point during the day,  someone took our ponies when we weren't paying attention! No one would fess up to it, and there was nothing we could do about it, so we went home as sad little girls with no ponies. We never got ponies to replace them and never wanted to bring our favorite toys to school again.


Even though I couldn’t take any of my toys to school for fear of losing them, I still looked forward to going to school - because it meant I could get away from the farm work. To a child, the farm work seemed so hard! I just wanted to run around and play all day, but I wasn’t allowed to because running a dairy farm takes a lot of work and people. After working on the farm for only a year or so, I realized I would never have the kind of childhood others had. We would have to get up early every day and put in an hour or so of work before getting on the bus to go to school. The chores took up a large portion of our after-school time as well. We only had 30 minutes to an hour of actual "kid time" before it was work time. Our "kid time" was generally when we could play, but sometimes we had too much homework and didn't even get time to play. So, we would come home after school, do some homework, maybe play and then go out to do some more chores. So while most kids hated going to school because it was work, I loved going to school to get away from work.


In addition, school was one of my favorite places because I loved learning new things. I especially loved learning to read! As soon as I could read, I read everything. I would ask to go to the library as often as possible and would check out four to eight books every time we went. I would bring them back and read them out loud as we were doing chores around the farm, and I would read to myself when I had some down-time. For me, reading a book let me visit a world that was so different from my own, an imaginary world that helped me forget that I lived on a farm.


Not only did I like to learn new things in school, but I always wanted to be the best at any new thing I did learn. Throughout kindergarten through 12th grade, I rarely got a grade below a B, and I would be so upset at myself if I got a C. I always worked very hard and studied non-stop to shoot for those A’s. However, even with all the effort I put into getting good grades, my mom would often tell me I was stupid. I didn’t know how to not be stupid, and I kept trying my best to get better grades. Now, I can look back and realize it was never about the grades. My mom just felt powerful when telling me I was stupid - so I could get all A’s on my report card, and it still wouldn’t matter


Like most kids, we sometimes thought school seemed too hard, and we would hope for a snow day. However, when we would actually get a snow day we would truly miss school. Snow days, for farm kids, meant a lot more work. Many times, the adults would just pile on more work that needed to be done. So we would do the normal day-to-day operations and then also have to do other chores that otherwise would have waited for a longer break from school, like Christmas or summer. So snow days were generally not fun, and we'd get sad when we heard the news of school being closed. Other kids got to do fun things like go sledding. We got to do those things, too, but only if all of the extra chores were completed.

So, like we did in so many other ways, we lived a sort of reverse life. While other kids escaped FROM school, we escaped TO school. It provided a strangely comforting break from life on the farm.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Secret Lives of Farm Kids


Some of the things we did as kids on the farm could be seen as unusual and definitely weird, but to us, it was simply the way things were. These were things we actually enjoyed, and they helped us deal with the bad things that came with living on a farm.

During the summer months, when we were home for longer periods of time, we would get bored, so we would have to find ways to entertain ourselves. That meant improvising and turning the farm into our own playground. There were many hot days when we would take a short swim in the tanks where our cows drank. When we did this, we were surrounded not only by refreshing water, but also by cow snot, algae and water bugs - all of which lived in the tanks. 

If we completed our chores and didn’t fight, we were treated to something even better than swimming in the cow tanks. We would either go for ice cream in the nearby city of Millington or go over to a family friend's place and swim in their actual pond! All of us kids would get so excited when our parents would talk about a “treat” because we knew it would be one of these two activities. We wouldn't always know until we got in the car which it would be because they would tell us to put on our bathing suits and come prepared. The best was when we were treated to both! We would go swimming and then out for an ice cream cone dipped in either chocolate or strawberry.

Many days, Tracy and I would walk all around the farm completely barefoot because we decided we didn’t like to wear shoes! This meant we would walk through A LOT of poop. The outdoor pens, where we kept the heifers that couldn’t be milked yet, got rained on frequently, which meant the poop there was a super soupy consistency. Tracy and I used to love walking through that and feeling the poop squish between our toes. Obviously we would rinse off after walking through that much poop, but it was always this weird, exhilarating moment.

Another fun game we liked to play could have been dangerous. There were five silos around the farm, but not all of them were used to store feed. A couple of the older ones were left empty, so we used to play inside of them. One of my favorite things to do was take in several bouncy balls from the quarter machines and bounce them to see which ones could go the highest. All of us kids would go inside the silo and compete. But it was sometimes confusing because we each brought more than one ball, and after locking ourselves in it was hard to see and avoid getting hit by all the bouncing balls. Several times I got nervous that we would get locked in the silo - and with no adults knowing where we were, this could be dangerous. So, more often than not I would try to leave the door at least cracked open.

Sometime while we were in grade school, we learned about trampolines and decided we needed one, but our family couldn’t afford one. Then, once again finding things around the farm to make into toys, we found our own trampoline! Granted, it was pretty gross and didn’t last, but it was fun for a few days. One of our cows had died and was buried in a field, but apparently she wasn’t buried deep enough, so she bloated up, making a mound in the field. We had so much fun jumping on her while she was all bloated and were sad when the bloating went away and we no longer had a trampoline. It wasn’t until a few years later that we actually received a real trampoline. Even this real one wasn’t the safest thing around though. It had been sitting on the property of one of our neighbors and had been surrounded by weeds, nearly a part of the land from years of no use. We were so excited to have it. This trampoline wasn’t round like most of them are. Instead, it was a large rectangle, and it was missing several of the springs from around the edges. As we started to bounce on it, we realized the springs that were remaining didn’t necessarily want to be there either - because they would fly off! If you weren’t careful they could hit you as they went flying through the air or you could slip while bouncing and fall between the frame and the bouncing pad. Since there were missing springs and there was no cover on the remaining springs, slipping while bouncing was the main concern, but we truly loved that thing.

Looking back, it was the strangest things that brought us moments of true childhood happiness.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Floating

After my “dad” used my hand to masturbate that first morning, it became the ritual for the next few months of winter when we could be hidden beneath a blanket. It may not have occurred every day, but it happened more often than not - until the day things progressed to something more. Things started to change sometime during the summer between fourth and fifth grade.


It’s not as clear to me when things moved beyond him just using my hand for his pleasure to him touching me. Because, in the beginning, he would simply touch me. Not that that is acceptable, but it seemed less harmful than what was to come. He would touch my vagina and breasts and comment on how soon I would become more of a woman and have bigger breasts and hair and how he was looking forward to when that happened.


There were times he would pick me up “like a sack of potatoes” over his shoulder and carry me into his room, lay me on his bed and get on top of me to start French kissing me. I hated when he would stick his tongue in my mouth. He used chewing tobacco, and it made me want to vomit every time he did this. I don’t recall ever kissing him back, but he continued to do this to me. I always thought this was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I was wrong.


He eventually escalated to more than just kissing me and lying on top of me. Mind you, he was a big man, 300-plus pounds, so it felt like he was crushing me most of the time. He would eventually slide off of me, taking off my pants and underwear on his way. Then, he would either sit on his knees or stand next to the bed with my legs draped over the edge of the bed or lifted and wrapped around his head. Then, he would proceed to stick his tongue in my vagina and perform oral sex on me.


During all of these times, I never fought back or said anything. It was easier for me to pretend this wasn’t even happening to me. I would just lie there with my eyes mostly closed. I would open them every once in a while to see where he was and what he was doing, but I would shut them immediately if we happened to make eye contact. A part of me knew what he was doing was wrong, but I didn’t know how to get out of it, so if I just pretended like it wasn’t me, then I could get through it. I would literally imagine myself floating above my body and watching this girl have these things happen to her - over and over and over again.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cats! Cats! Cats!

When you run a dairy farm, having cats seems to be the norm. Heck, just having a barn makes having cats seem like the norm - even  a necessity. Barns seem to be breeding grounds for mice, so having a lot of cats helps keep down the mouse population. Sky Light Farms, Ltd., was no exception to this rule. We had at least 10 cats at any given time, but sometimes we had many more. I think that was when my love for cats actually developed. They were all just so cute - even if they had weird diseases from being inbred. 

However, their lives - and deaths - are prime examples of just how tough farm life can be, even for animals.  They endured things I can’t imagine my sweet house cat experiencing. They were tough cats, but sometimes the farm and the elements would win.

One of my earliest memories of the rough life of farm cats  is of going out to do chores one cold winter morning only to find a little kitten squished like a pancake in the spot where a cow  had been lying. You see, cows are kind of stupid animals, and apparently, so are some new cat moms. The cows were packed tightly in stalls, and they gave off a lot of warmth. Sometimes, a new mother cat would put her kittens in the straw where the cows slept  and would then head out to do some hunting. Later, she would come back to find her kittens dead. This happened far too often and was always a little sad, but we started to get used to finding dead kittens and somewhat expected to whenever kittens were born in the colder months. 

Death by sleepy cows wasn’t the only kind of death our dear, sweet kittens experienced. I remember another unique death that took place in the winter. One day, we had finished our morning milking and were gathering all the cats to feed them when I realized one of our black cats - I think her name was Lucky - wasn’t there to eat. So I went to locate her and bring her to get some food. When I found her, she was sitting up on a high beam near a window in the barn. I called to her, but she wasn’t responding, so I stepped up to carry her down - only to realize she was frozen! She was in a perfect cat pose, sitting up with her legs under her, looking all majestic, but she had been there far too long. I felt really bad for her, and it made me want to make sure all the cats were kept warm during the cold months. Michigan can be a frigid place, and a barn isn’t all that insulated, so I’m honestly amazed this only happened once. 

Probably the most traumatic thing we experienced regarding cat deaths was when a pair of Rottweilers in heat annihilated most of our kittens. It was sometime in the summer, right after most of our females had given birth. There were about 25 kittens in total at the time. Well, these Rottweilers came through and wreaked havoc. It was nighttime, and I remember Tracy and I were freaked out because we could hear the dogs breathing and panting outside our window. It sounded like a demon to us. We made sure all of the doors and windows to our little house were closed and sat away from the windows, like the dogs were going to come in and kill us while we slept. When we finally heard them move away from the house, we felt so relieved and suddenly safe. When we woke up the next morning to start our morning chores, we remembered the night before, and as we were walking to the barn, we noticed that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until we were close to the entrance of the barn that we started to freak out. There were several dead kittens  lying in front of the barn. They were ripped to shreds with their innards all over the place. It looked like a massacre had happened - because it had. There was so much carnage that we started searching the whole farm looking for living kittens and trying to account for all of our precious babies. We soon realized only one kitten had survived, but her mother had died. This mother appeared to be the only mama cat to have protected her young while the rest of the moms had run away. All of these other mothers had lived, but all of their babies had died. Needless to say, my siblings and I were devastated. 

Another time, one brave cat jumped up on the grill and grabbed a steak when our mom was looking away. When she turned around to see what had happened, she was furious! She went in the house and grabbed a BB gun, handed it to our brother, Fred, and told him to go shoot the cat. Tracy and I were so upset by this. I mean, we had a whole freezer full of meat, so we could just go get another steak, but Mom didn’t care what we said. She looked at Fred again and told him to go, find the cat and show it who was the boss. She continued grilling the steak while Fred went and did what he was told.

Sometimes, cats would just show up on our property, most likely because they had been dropped off near our driveway. Other times, they just wandered up to our property. Either way, if they looked like they had been dropped off or if they started trouble with our other cats, Mom instructed us to gather them up and dispose of them. She had us put them in grain bags, and then we would drive to some other farm at least 10 miles from our farm. Once there, we would open the bag, and the cat would run out. A few times, the cats showed up back at our farm. If this happened, we were able to keep them. Every time a new cat appeared on the farm, I was so happy to have a new kitty to play with!

One time a poor cat came to us during a bad summer storm via a tree branch! Now let me explain. This storm was laden with high winds and even a tornado. The tornado broke off the branch where this cat was sitting and sent her flying to our farm. We have no idea how far she flew across the skies, but she had to be terrified, so we convinced our mom to let us keep her.  After a few days, we realized she was quite a pain. She kept clawing at the window screens of our house, trying to get in, and then we found out she was pregnant! We finally convinced Mom to let her in the back room of the house so she could have her kittens and keep them safe until they were older. We kept the cat there, making sure she had access to go outside when she wanted. Shortly after she had her kittens, Mom decided we no longer needed her, and we were instructed to take her and her kittens far away and drop them off at some other farm. By this time, my siblings and I had gotten attached to them and didn’t want to lose them. So we created a makeshift crate to house her and the kittens until they were older, and then we planned to tell Mom that they had just ventured back to our house. Well, it turns out cats can’t survive without food … . We totally forgot to feed the mama cat for several days, so when we finally went to check on her, we saw she had eaten her kittens! At that point, we figured it was fine to release her since we would only have one cat to feed instead of five.

Many times, kitties were our only friends. We would make up games to play with them while smothering them with our love. One of my favorite games was to get a string and go up and down the aisles behind the cows and around the barn to see how many cats would chase the string and how long they would stay interested. There were times I started with only a couple of cats and ended up with 10 trailing behind me. It felt awesome.

Another time, Fred found a new kitten to be his best friend and wanted to “play” with him. So he began playing a game we called “Shark.” This game consisted of us standing on a large, half-buried gas tank that was no longer in use. There were large crevasses on either side of the tank where we would stand and act like a shark coming up to attack whoever was standing on the tank. If we tagged that person, then they became the shark. Well, one day Fred decided to play this game with his kitten, but he had a large stick to entice the kitten to follow him. It was the same premise as my string, but it was much bigger, and after playing for a bit, he moved too quickly and ended up hitting the kitten and killing him. Fred was pretty distraught to know he had killed his favorite kitten. 

Two of our biggest, meanest cats to ever live on the farm had some pretty “creative” names - Brown Nose and Pink Nose. Of course, they had not always been the biggest or the meanest cats, but they had had a rough life that shaped their personalities. When Pink Nose was just a kitten, he got stuck in the gutter - a system used to clean out the cow poop. Fred, Tracy and I were at school at the time he got caught and were devastated to see him when we came home. He looked so bad. His mouth and face were kind of shredded, and parts of his front paws were missing and he was still bleeding pretty badly. The adults told us to leave him alone and he would either heal or die on his own. It took some time, but he eventually healed and went into survival mode. He was constantly picking fights with the other males and trying to prove that he was the dominant male on the farm. He even started to regularly fight his brother, Brown Nose. When male cats fight for dominance, the sound is pretty terrifying, so we just let them work things out themselves. That sometimes meant that there was blood from the weaker ones. Brown Nose wasn’t as mean as his brother, even after he had his own kind of accident. He was just a very BIG cat. One day in the summer, when we had our large fan out, Brown Nose got stuck in it, and it basically skinned him. All the hair was removed from his back, and he looked like he was in bad shape. He eventually healed, but after this incident, he tried to stick to the shadows and rarely would show himself anymore.

One of the most fun things to watch our cats do was learn how to hunt. Cats are born with natural hunting instincts, but you wouldn’t know it from watching some of our cats! So many times we saw them totally give themselves away to birds because they jumped WAY too early and the birds just flew away. But other times, it was amazing to see them actually catch a bird, especially bigger birds like pigeons. Of course, they were constantly catching mice and moles around the farm. However, sometimes they weren’t aware of all the hiding places for mice, so we would help them out. There was a nest of mice living under a pallet that was covered with feed for the cows. Once that feed was gone, Fred, Tracy and I each took two cats in our arms,lifted the pallet with our feet and threw the cats down to catch all the mice. We also helped to kill the mice by stepping on them and then giving them to other cats. I guess that sounds kind of morbid, but it was a lot of fun “hunting” with our cats.

During the winter months it was common to find me hidden in a pile of kitties! I loved to be surrounded by them and their warmth. Yes, they lived rough lives, but they also brought so much happiness to our lives. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Sticks and Ashes

Everyone says that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. If only that were always the case. Growing up, I enjoyed the holiday, but I never truly felt like it was overly wonderful. And never was I more disappointed with it than the year "Santa" gave us sticks and ashes. 

Tracy and I were 10 and Fred was 11 the year "Santa" brought us these gifts from our grandparents' wood burning stove. Needless to say, I felt disappointed and angry that this was my holiday experience. 

That particular year, we had been fighting a lot, but it felt like no more than previous years. Still, our parents were not happy and kept threatening that Santa would notice and we wouldn't get presents if we continued to be naughty. 

The minute I opened my box and saw what was inside, I felt angry and certain that Santa wouldn't be this mean. That was the year I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I may have been older than most, but my belief in him was something to hold onto to make the holiday special. But this act of getting sticks and ashes felt like a betrayal and something evil - definitely something my mom would do. We opened those gifts before our morning chores. Then, it was business as usual. We had to go out and do our chores without being angry or disappointed because that would cause more problems and backlash from one of the adults. 

After we completed morning chores, we sat down for our break and were asked if we'd like our "real" gifts from Santa. We were told that he had given them to our parents because we were naughty. But even these gifts turned out to be nothing special. We each received a new backpack for school and a handheld game that was relatively cheap at the time. Later that day, I was snooping around in my parents' bedroom when I saw the receipts for our backpacks and games. This solidified my suspicion that these gifts were bought and that Santa was not this evil person, but rather a made-up person to try to make children behave better. 

The hardest part of Christmas was when the winter break was over and we had to return to school. All the other kids were bragging about all their awesome new gifts while we were like, "Yeah, I got this new backpack so I could carry my school supplies..."

Merry Christmas to us.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Day I Lost My Innocence

I’ve previously mentioned that my siblings and I suffered physical, emotional and verbal abuse - mostly from our own mother. However, that abuse never prepared me for a new kind of abuse, a kind I had never even heard of and had no idea was classified as abuse. To be honest, none of the abuse I experienced as a child felt like abuse at the time - it was just the way life was, and it was expected that I would take it and deal with it.

Because most of the abuse we endured came at the hands of our mom, I never thought our “dad” could do anything terrible to us. And I didn't consider anything he DID do to be really all that bad.

If you have been reading my blogs, you know my siblings and I were adopted when I was 8 years old. After the adoption, I was always looking for ways to truly feel like part of the family.

About a year after the adoption, I thought that moment had finally come! Every morning before chores, we would all sit as a family to watch the news, mostly to see what the weather had in store since we would be working in the elements. I remember perfectly how things changed on this particular wintry day. We were all watching the news like normal when my “dad” saw I was cold and put his blanket over me, so we were both covered by it. After a few minutes of sitting under the blanket together and warming up, he took my hand in his. What happened next shocked me and made me feel weird and a little wrong.

He put my hand on his penis. Then, he proceeded to use my hand while masturbating. My hand was under a blanket on my “dad’s” penis, which I had never seen, let alone felt, before! When he was finished, there was weird, slimy goo on my hand. At the time, I wasn’t aware of what that was. It was his semen. There wasn’t a lot, so he kind of wiped it on his underwear, put his penis away and then took the blanket off of us. It was time to get dressed and start our morning chores.

This was the first of many times this happened over the next year. I never told anyone. A part of me finally did feel different - special. I now had this secret that connected only me to my “dad” and helped secure my spot as “daddy’s little girl.” I was 9 years old and had officially lost my innocence.

Secrets in the Haymow

Warning: This blog contains mature content that may be triggering. The effects of being raped and the emotions it produces are more ...