You stamp a hoof in anticipation as the day winds down. The stench of unwashed farm animals drowns out your own stench that has built up over the day. It isn't a big deal though as you've grown accustomed by coming back here to the sheep pen for the past week. Peggy, one of your sheep, should be delivering sometime soon, and you don't want to be too far this time. You can afford these last couple of hours of the day to laze around since the daily chores are done and bucking season is some time off. Though, you tell yourself, it isn't really lazing around when you're waiting to help pull a lamb out of her mother.
The ground beneath your stamping hoof has gotten hard and compact, so you unconsciously switch to your other hoof. You've grown to enjoy the softness of virgin moist dirt. It reminds you of those simpler times when mush was food, not work, and you silently take note that no matter how much you stand in this spot and stamp in the earth, the animals and the weather always manage to loosen it up again bringing the simple enjoyment of playing with your food again. You play with the thought of leaning over and taking a little nibble of it, just to feel the texture of mushed carrots and peas between your teeth again. You chuckle it off though the temptation still nibbles at your ear.
Instead, you walk over to the sheep's hay pile. It's an old farmer's snack, a guilty pleasure, you learned from your dad, a mouthful of hay. Some of it sticks out or jabs the inside of your cheeks. Your saliva softens the crispy plant a bit, but it has been dried for too long. Even though you try to chew till its all mashed up real good, it doesn't feel the same.
Working the farm used to be more about helping out ma and pa then keeping yourself afloat, but that is just a bitter way to think about it. You still are helping them. It should be the same if not better than when they left. After all, everything you do for the farm, you do for your future too. Sweet Apple Acres will be yours next. Maybe, that is just the defeatist way to think about it.
You look out at the sun setting on the apple orchard with their shadows stretching pass the house, where Granny Smith is cooking dinner, and reaching out almost touching the barn with their pointed tips, where Applejack is just now getting the last bits of hay bale stacked just right for the night. Apple Bloom should be getting home from her little cutie mark club, disappointed as usual. A cool breeze blows by and the moon is between glowing and its normal dull hue of the day. It's gonna be cold tonight. You look at the full pile of chopped wood on the back of your house and decide to have a fire tonight. A loud pained groan from one of the sheep. They will bunch up, even with their thick coats. You make a mental note to shave the sheep tomorrow, except Peggy. The stress would be too much for just after or just before birth.
The sheep calls out more strained, and you realize it's Peggy about to give birth. You rush over to her trying to keep her calm. You feel which way the lamb is coming and attempt to help turn it to make sure it comes out right. Peggy has had trouble in the past delivering. Twice you have come out the next day to see a still lamb lying in placenta and filth. Peggy had laid there next to them, gently nudging with her snout. You had dragged it away with Peggy headbutting you to stay away. She wanted her own lamb so much; she was blind to their deaths. That wouldn't happen again if you had a choice. You began studying the births of other sheep and farm animals. Understanding silent details in the screaming chaos. It wasn't for the lambs that died. It wasn't for the lamb to come. It was all for this ewe, Peggy, that had been born the same day you were.
Through the mess and the screaming, Peggy's lamb came out a fine bald mess trembling with the excitement of life. His legs folded under his weight, and Peggy laid next to him. He let out an experimental cry and cuddled into his mother who started licking him clean. Despite your own warning, you might have to shave her a little bit if her son is going to get any milk. As it is, he wobbly gets on his feet. Even with his lack of strength and balance, he manages not to fall. You decide that Peggy's son should be named Stud. He'll break all the ewe's hearts.
You hear Applejack call out from the house, “Big Mac, soups on!” Covered in sheep afterbirth, mud, and the unknown, it's best to get a quick wash before sitting down to dinner with the family. You find yourself trotting back a little faster than what you normally do. You wonder how much midwives make, but quickly deduce helping a mare and an ewe are two totally different things. Besides, you aren't even the right gender for it. What would the other ponies of Ponyville say? The thought doesn't escape you completely though changing the idea to Doctor Big Mac. You play with the idea shortly as the water falls on and drips off of you. You picture yourself with a white coat, a stethoscope, and a certain kind of respect apples don't give you. Applejack's voice breaks through the daydream. Her southern accent, usually unnoticeable to your own southern drawl, but its presence crumbles the thought.
She turns the corner while you stand behind the wooden barrier with the outside shower on. “Come on now Big Mac,” she says, “It's been a long day, and we could use some grub.”
You give her a quick smile and a slow, “Eyup.” Just seeing her is able to lift your spirits about working on the farm. A partner in the solidarity out here at the farm even if she has a group of friends unlike you. No time for such things with so much work to do. She still helps enough that it's easy to forget she is another responsibility while ma and pa are gone. Besides the farm, you have to keep both your sisters well
A quick detour to get a few pieces of logs to bring inside to avoid coming back out and braving the chill of a cold night. You shiver in your wet fur and can already see your breath in the air. Your a little envious of the sheep with their thick sheets of wool. Little Stud is probably in a mesh of warm pillowy blanket fur from the pack. The thought of the warmth inside keeps you from dropping the logs.
You shut the door behind you, escaping a chilling gust, and the aroma of baked apples mixed with the stale smell of glazed weeds and daffodils fills the air. You inwardly sigh at the thought of eating apples again. But you're able to distract yourself by starting the fire. A cough from the table makes you aware of the chewing sound that seemed almost like white noise, a background hum to your thoughts.
“Big Mac,” Apple Bloom says, her voice energetic and happy, “today after school we went down to the river to see if we could get our cutie marks for diving. We didn't, but we had a blast playing. There were hermit crabs and flying fishes that could jump over our heads. It was amazing.” You spark the fire letting it catch on the wood. It was easy to tell it would grow fast and strong. If you can, you'll keep her happy as long as you can. “Hurry up big brother, your foods gonna get cold.”
“That boy isn't in a hurry to do anything,” Granny Smith says in that shaky old voice that makes you want to go grab a shovel. “How old are you again, boy? And still single.” You keep your silence, like always. Walking over to take a bite of dinner, it's all you can do to hold your tongue, the hardest thing to do is to not leave that old crone.
Apple Bloom has learned to keep her silence when this argument comes up, so it's up to Applejack to say something, “Come on Granny.” She is as tired of this argument as much as you are, “Can't we just enjoy dinner. Everyone had a long day today. We would like to enjoy the end of one for once.” You snort. That won't happen till either you or her are gone. Of course no one heard you snort over the old crone yammering. You take a bite of some baked apple hoping the crunch will drown her out.
“Applejack, you've got nice friends,” granny says. “Can't you help your brother out?”
“Granny We have no time...” but Granny Smith won't let her finish.
“Excuses! You think Johnnie let the farm get in the way of him finding a wife? He went out and found your mother. What a happy couple they are too. You know how many farms your father has to his name? Just be glad he let you stay in Ponyville, Big Mac. If it were up to me you'd be off on the Appleoosa farm where you'd be forced to find yourself some friends and a girl.” All you want to do is hit her in the face with one of your hooves, to end her insufferable yammering. Bury her under an apple tree in the orchard where none will find her. Live in peace finally.
Instead, you look her in the eyes and say, “Shut up.” You go back down to take another bite of food.
“Don't you dare eat my food when you talk to me like that,” she says knocking the plate to the floor with a wrinkled hoof. She makes you think of mush, used to be so soft when you were young. Something you enjoyed.
So you left, ignoring everything she says. You sit in the living room watching the fire until dinner is over. The warmth crawls over half your body, not wholly satisfying but enough that you rather stay then go up to your room.
Little hoof steps are heard coming down the stairs, and not long afterward, Apple Bloom is in the living room with you with a blanket. “Don't let granny get you down, Big Mac,” she says. “I think you're doing great.” Great at what, you don't know. But the words seem to warm up your backside. Or the blanket does, but you'd like to think your little sister is just that special. She snuggles in with you.
Applejack's voice comes from behind you, must have sneaked up on you, “We're on your side Big Mac. You done more for us then anyone.” She's holding her own blanket. She lays down next to you wrapping herself up. You grin to yourself, a farming family is never above sleeping on the floor with each other.
You may not ever be a doctor or a midwife, and you won't get the respect that they get. It's okay though because you've got your own animals that depend on you. You'll never be a hero like Applejack, or an adventurer like Apple Bloom, but you're the base that supports them and let's them be themselves. Even if it doesn't leave you much, it gives you moments where the three of you are lying next to each other on a cold night.