Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Early Mother's Day Gift

Keith and I have this ongoing joke about the way things sorta fall apart on the ranch when one of us leaves.  I guess it isn't much of a joke for the one left behind, but without fail, when I leave town a kid gets sick and when he leaves town there is a cow-related catastrophe.  

Last weekend, I was in California for a few days, and it came as no surprise when the first text appeared on my phone after landing in LA..."Cole puked this morning."  Like clockwork, Ranch Boss was left single-handedly trying to figure out how to juggle construction, farming, and a barfing kid.

On that note, Keith left for Montana at 4am yesterday morning, and by lunchtime I had a call from a neighbor that we had a cow calving in the pasture.  What happened over the next several hours would become one of my favorite farm stories to date.

I found our soon-to-be mama cow, a first calf heifer, sprawled out both beside and beneath the barbed wire fence, just as our neighbor had said.  Two tiny feet and a nose were emerging...all I got Keith on the phone and he said to give it a little time.  It's no wonder he's the Ranch Boss and I'm a disaster with animals...he's calm and patient while I'm trying to jump in and fix what doesn't need fixing.  It was all I could do to go back to the house and watch 30 snail-paced minutes go by on the clock as I waited to check her again.  In the time that I was home, 3 separate people stopped by to let me know about our cow, which landed somewhere between helping to pass the time and making it drag on even longer.

At next check, things were the same, and I found myself trying hard to differentiate between my natural inclination to assume something was wrong and my good instinct, which occasionally...yet rarely... shows up.  Finally I texted Clay, who wasn't home, and let him know I needed some help, pronto.

Several phone calls Keith, the vet, the neighbor, and any other human I thought could show up and be of help in a hurry...I realized we might just be on our own for this one.  The timing wasn't so awesome - Cole and Carson were a half hour from needing to be picked up at school - so I took off to get them early and asked Clay to walk the cow (who had now gotten up on her own and was slowly wandering in a contraction-filled daze) up to the barn so we could lock her up.

I didn't expect Clay to have her in the barn by the time I got home, but sure enough, he did, and she was locked in the squeeze chute.  If you're not a farm person...and even if you are, but haven't heard of a squeeze chute... it's a giant steel contraption that holds the cow in place for doctoring and times such as this.  Picture trying to hold your child down to remove a sliver.  Not so easy.  Now imagine your child is 1,300 pounds.  This is where the squeeze chute comes in handy.

What happened over the next short while is the very best part.  I got Keith back on the phone, thinking of all the times I've heard a 911 operator give instructions when someone calls and has to deliver a baby in an emergency.  While I was explaining to him what was going on, the boys went to work on their own...and to allow those with weak stomachs a chance to keep reading, I'll spare most of the details.  I hung up the phone as soon as I realized these young men of mine were going to work through this on their own.  As a team, working in complete sync with one another, Clay and Cole delivered the baby calf, saving its life; all the while, Carson stood petting the mama's face and rubbing her neck.  Within seconds, one of the boys said, "Mom, he's breathing...he's alive!"  

I had been of minimal help, and was more than glad to run into a nearby room to grab something so I could collect my crying self for a moment before returning to congratulate those boys on a job well done.

It didn't end there, as the boys carried the baby to meet his waiting mama for the first time.  They took care of all the things, big and small, that needed to be done...just as I've watched Keith do many times.  And in a short time, mama and baby were settled in a pen with fresh bedding where they would spend the night.

I know this is one of those things that isn't a big deal to my boys now.  Maybe someday it will be, and maybe it never will, but for me to watch them bring a new life into this world with such patience, care, and confidence...I really cannot express that feeling in the right words.  My tears falling onto the keyboard, even as I type about it almost 36 hours later, may give some indication.

As we were driving down the road later last night, I heard Clay, in his quiet and nonchalant tone, say:
"Nice job today, Cole."
"Thanks, Clay", said Cole, and then they were on to talking about going fishing.
Focus on your inhale and exhale, Brook, so you don't start crying once again...
These are the moments that melt a mom's heart.

And there it favorite Mother's Day gift.  Maybe I'll eventually have a new favorite, but this one will surely be hard to beat.  The truth about being a farmer or rancher is that you really never do stop working.  It isn't that we don't have fun, because I'd say we are surrounded by fun, but the work doesn't stop.  And about the time that reality begins to feel a little heavy, God creates a story like this one, and I am reminded that this is exactly where He wants our family to be.

May 9, 2014 - These two delivered our last calf of the season