The next house we rented belonged to the farmers who had built a larger, more modern home up the road. They had a few children our ages and they had animals we loved to get up-close perspectives of, when we could.
Well, the bull, we steered away from (I swear I didn't see that pun coming!) He chased us if he was close enough when we took a shortcut through the field. And the sow we were cautioned to leave alone so that she wouldn't gobble up her newborns. The other animals, however, were subjected to a good dose of Armstrong hands-on curiosity. Some of the more intrepid of us would let the still-nursing calf suck on our whole hands and then use his furry back to wipe the thick slobber off. When I say "our hands," I don't mean I ever did that. I could play with grasshoppers who leaked brown tobacco spittle on my hands and pull slick and muddy night crawlers from flooded lawns or even land a bare foot right smack in the middle of a cow paddy without making much to do about it, but that calf-nursing on human hands was a bit more than I was ever tempted to try. The kids said it was a very interesting feeling, though, and that little cow sure had a mighty pull!
Our favorite, of course, was the mare they let us ride bare-back. Big brown mare with a big bare back that we clambered upon and fought mightily to stay on when she trotted across the field. We could fit three of us...sometimes four...on her back at a time, but if the front rider couldn't manage to stay astride, the whole rest of the train would hysterically slide right over the "healthy" bulging rib cage and fall in a howling heap onto the hard-packed ground. Unadulterated delight and joy, that!
When we weren't discovering the delightful world of domestic farm animals, there were plenty of wild creatures to get to know. Jack rabbits that would pop up right before our eyes, causing the younger ones to exclaim that they had met a kangaroo, skunks that tempted our Teddy out at night to give fearless, chivalrous chase, and little round-eared field mice scurrying and scratching our bedposts, probably very angry that a human family had moved in and threatened to disrupt their warm wintering. But threaten we did, with girly screams and swipes of the broom under the beds and taking the rodent-slaying dog to the bathroom with us at night.
Not over yet...