When I was a kid, I had a job as a hand on a cattle farm for the summer. We worked for twelve or thirteen hours a day doing everything you have to do to keep a farm running. One morning, my boss, Mr. D, looked at me and said “Its inoculation day Robbie!” I didn’t understand the profound significance of this event, but I was about to. We crammed all of the cattle into the barn and then waded into the sea of bawling animals and began injecting them one by one. I was all of sixteen years old and just wearing shorts and running shoes on the hottest day of the year. The animals were packed in the barn like it was fifth class on the titanic. These large smelly animals were getting more pissed off by the minute. Mr. D would pick out an animal and point at it. “Let’s get that one Robby!” I would grab the animal around its head and do my best to hold it steady while Mr. D would stick a long needle in its flank and hit the plunger sending the antibiotic into its system. The cow would thrash around and I struggled to keep it under control; all the while I was being pressed up against the side of another angry animal the size of a Toyota Camry.
The cattle complained about the heat and wanted desperately to go outside. I complained about the heat and wanted desperately to go outside. Mr. D complained about the heat and wanted to desperately to go outside, but we kept at it. For some reason, Mr. D wanted to make it even more difficult. He would point out a big cow that was 3 or 4 animals away and say. “Get that one Robby!” I didn’t know what was wrong with the one standing right next to me, but that wasn’t my job. I pressed my way through the crush of cows until I got to the head of our next victim. I grabbed the steer around the neck and as Mr. D was taking aim with his needle the animal I was next to happened to let go with a rather impressive stream of cowshit. It hit me square on the shoulder and ran all the way down my body. Mr. D could barely hold the needle he was laughing so hard. He guffawed with great delight as he stuck the needle in. I held on as the river of hot crap ran down my side and the steer I was holding bucked.
After several hours of this, we finally released the last inoculated animal into the barnyard and we emerged into the sunlight. I was completely exhausted and covered in filth. Mrs. D took one look at me and said “Good God Robby! Get down to the creek and go swimming, you are not going anywhere near the house like that.” I went down to the creek and swam while 3 hours of sweat and filth washed off me.
Why do I tell you this story? Because it’s one of the happiest memories of my entire time as a teenager! Isn’t that ridiculous? I was hot, sweaty and literally covered in shit and it was a blast! I know what you might be thinking. “Hey Rob, you are just looking at this with the rose coloured glasses of adulthood, you really had a terrible time.” Nope. I thought it was a blast when it was happening as well. I felt alive, useful and even exhilarated. . So what gives? How is it that I was happy on that afternoon when I was covered in crap? Sometimes happiness seems to arrive inexplicably at unexpected moments. You know when you go by the train tracks and you see a sign that says “Warning high speed trains may go by at any time without warning.” I think it’s the same with happiness; often it sneaks up on us without warning and just arrives. Weird isn’t it? Can you remember a time when happiness snuck up on you?