Observations from back porch

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Both were born on the same day. May 14 it was.

They entered this world — warm, wet and kicking — having just left a comfortable cocoon and forced into earth’s atmosphere. One was named Molly; the other, Mickey. Molly was a black angus calf. Mickey was a black-haired baby boy.

At one day old, Molly was walking and had found her mother’s milk. Mickey could not begin to turn over, much less walk.

At one week, Molly was growing like a weed and had learned the art of galloping through the pasture. Mickey, meanwhile, lay on his back or his belly all day long.

At six months, Molly frolicked and nursed her mom and started to taste this green stuff called grass. She was now emitting a “mooing” sound. Mickey was observing the world around him. The sounds, the smells, texture, lights.

At eight months, Mickey was taking notice of large humans around him generating sounds through an opening on their face. Mickey started making sounds. Molly was “mooing.”

At 12 months, Mickey grasped an incredible thing. The sounds emanating from the large human’s mouths somehow referred to other things. “Mama.” “Chair.” “Hot.” “Food.” Meanwhile, Molly was eating more grass. And “mooing.”

At 15 months, Mickey embarked on an extraordinarily complicated endeavor. He studied the lips, mouth and tongue movements of those around him when certain sounds were made and attempted to mimic those sounds by experimenting with his own lips, mouth and tongue.

He discovered, by watching and practicing, when two lips come together, the “mmmm” sound is made. When lips touch while air is going out, the “ppppp” sound occurs. And when the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, “tttttttt” is generated.

One day, when an adult entered the room, Mickey connected a particular sound to a particular person and contrived his mouth to emit that sound. “Mama.”

Meanwhile, Molly was out in the pasture, eating grass.

At 18 months, Mickey connected two sounds together that both named the object and recognized what the object was doing. He said “Bye, Mama.”

Now 20 have passed. Mickey is in his sophomore year of college. He says a lot of sentences these days. Even uses symbols to put them on paper. Mickey knows numbers and formulas and concepts and statistics. He creates art and ponders history and considers the ramifications of human behavior.

And Molly? Why, I’m looking at her now, right off my back porch. Dad always liked black cows on green grass. Pretty, isn’t it? There she is, wandering through the pasture, eating clover. And “mooing.”

Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, country supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com