The onset of spring brings bright, sunny days and a plethora of newborn calves. Today was the ideal spring day with the sunshine radiating from the sky warming the soil without a breath of wind across the snow scattered landscape. Calving season is the time of year when the rancher works the hardest. My husband decided to complicate the situation by farming as well. Long hours, no sleep, and restless anxiety of what mother nature is planning to do next lapses the time. The birth process, in general, is a miracle but add in the concept of a soaking wet baby getting born in sub-par conditions and managing to survive and it truly is miraculous.
I reflect on one of my first calving seasons some eighteen years ago. Not native to ranch life as I married into it, the learning curve has been steep. My husband had another “great idea” (insert eye roll) and asked that I do a cow check while he spreads fertilizer. I learned that spreading fertilizer is an actual farming task and not just something he does with the boys in town. My Sunday morning was routine and ended up with me dressing up for church. With nails, hair, make-up, and heels in check, I was off to church. It strikes me as ironic now that little did I know at the time, I would be the one needing prayers later. After church, I went to the local grocery store and bought all the major staples to get us through the upcoming week and loaded them in the back seat of my SUV. Worried that I may have missed something on the ranch, I raced home for the cow check that had been bestowed upon me.
My job was supposed to be simple: drive through the newborn calves, and in the event, one is down and cold, I would take it to the barn and stick it in the warmer until my husband returned home. Although my husband claims to be a simple man, his tasks never are. To complicate the situation, the pairs are in a creek pasture for which the crossing had iced over. But with my 4×4, I knew I could make it with speed and so I did. All of the calves looked good soaking up the warm sun across the snowy patched pasture, and then, it happened. My heart sank as I witnessed one black calf lying flat on its side and appearing lifeless. I thought now was my chance to save a life! I raced over to the calf in my Sunday best and scooped him up with all my might and shoved him in the back of my SUV. This task was not an easy feat in heels mind you. I am confident the sight of the affair would have won millions on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Upon shutting the hatch and climbing into the driver seat, I noticed the calf was now standing and let out a cute bellar as if to say, “What is happening?” I assured him that all would be fine, and I would pay for counseling later if he needed it. I had no idea how much counseling I would benefit from in the years to come. I knew time was of the essence and needed to get to the barn quickly! As I approached the creek crossing, I knew I needed speed for success, and so I gunned it. With a slam and a bam, I was across. In the meantime, however, the baby calf was catapulted to the back seat of the SUV with my newly purchased groceries. Like a dog chasing his tail, the calf is spinning circles frantically searching for any escape route possible. The smell of the calf’s breath was on my neck and a new stench was now encompassing the cab exuding from a surprise I would find later. This is when it dawned on me that this calf was very much alive and had just been in a deep sleep soaking up the sun dreaming of greener pastures. However, we were both entangled in a real-life nightmare now. The sound of exploding, cracking eggs will forever be engrained in my mind. My initial thought was to release the beast right there on the spot and stop the madness. I stepped out of the vehicle to remove the once-beloved intruder when to my surprise, the commotion from the kidnapping had not gone unnoticed. A big, black cow was hot on my trail and closing in fast. With no time to reenter the vehicle, I dashed around to the other side. Dash is a loose term for a lady in heels, but it happened. The agility of a 1400-pound, angry cow is quite impressive and terrifying! As a mother myself, I can only imagine the hatred she had for me at that moment. I did not want any part of her madness. After two hot laps of a real-life game of tag, I was able to climb into my vehicle unscathed.
Terrified, I raced back to the confines of the barn and safety. I unloaded the beast into the barn and now had some hurdles to overcome. First, I needed to assess the damages in the back seat which now looked similar to a trailer park after a tornado whirls through. How was I ever going to explain to my husband that a perfectly alive and healthy calf was in the barn and that he would need to reunite it with an angry mother? The casualties were as expected. All the eggs but one had been broken. A Capri Sun for my daughter had been punctured and soaked into the box of wheat thins. The bread was smashed flat. What a mess. But the best was yet to come. The ultimate surprise was the pasty, yellow bowel movement my once friend had left behind dangling on my leather seat. It looked like a caterpillar hanging on a tree and defying gravity. I tried to remove it with a paper towel, and to my amazement, it was stuck on tight. How a calf can pass a slug that is made up of half super glue is a conversation for another day. With some elbow grease, I was able to rid my ride of the excrement. Upon my husband’s arrival home, my pride was tarnished, so all I could do was laugh as I attempted to replay the day’s events. As a husband with a sense of humor, he joined me with laughter and was appreciative of my efforts. I learned a lot that day as a rancher’s wife. First, always wear ranch clothes when going to do ranch work, and second, (as a mother myself I should know), “NEVER wake a sleeping baby!”