Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Memories – Calvin-g

When the ground freezes, then thaws, then freezes, then thaws, it reminds me of calving season.  When I see a lone coyote running across the freezing and thawing ground, it reminds me of calving season.  The ground is freezing and thawing.  I saw a lone coyote in the cornfield on the way to work.  I’m thinking of calving season.

When I was a teenager I had to take a few turns sleeping at the calving shed like everyone else.  Because of ballgames and early morning seminary I didn’t do it often, but I did it.  Every hour-and-a-half someone had to walk through the heifers in the corral to see which ones were ready to calve.  Their tails let you know.  If a heifer’s tail was slightly raised with a water bag and hooves showing underneath it, it was time to move her into the shed and get help. 

It wasn’t hard work checking the heifers.  It was just cold and inconvenient and a wee bit scary – you know, shadows, howls, glowing eyes.

Thank you Google images

Thank you Google images

After Calvin graduated from BYU we joined my family’s ranching/farming operation.  By then the calving shed had been replaced with a large and modern calving barn with several pens down one side of the barn (much like the rooms in a maternity ward), and one large pen (much like a hospital waiting room) in the center of the barn.  There was also an apartment at one end of the barn and large corrals just outside of the other end.   

Our first home at the ranch was the apartment in that calving barn.  We didn’t have a TV.  We couldn’t even get a signal to a radio station.  It smelled of cows.  But it was our home and from February to May Calvin calved three hundred heifers there.  Every hour-and-a-half or so he walked among the heifers and put those that were ready to calve into a pen.  If she was having any trouble at all, he'd put chains on the calf's feet and pull it into the world – rarely, but occasionally, he performed caesarean sections, while the heifers were standing no less.

I helped some, but not much.  I would take my turn and check the heifers, or hold a head tight against the manger with a rope, or sometimes put the chains on a calf, or get medicine, syringes, or water, or drive a mile down the road to make a phone call to the vet – that kind of help.  But since I was usually due to calve myself during those months (Cali was born in May, Abe in March, and Ty in June) my help was the safe kind.  I loved watching the newborn calves come to life.  I loved watching Calvin nurse them.  After a hard pull, he'd stimulate the sometimes-lifeless little calves by rubbing them with a handful of straw or a rag.  Then in an effort to get the calf breathing, he’d stick a straw up its nose and tickle it until he’d sneeze and breathe.  My very favorite part, however, was dressing the kids in their snowsuits and all of us piling into the cab of the pick-up.  We'd drive out to the pastures and tag the new calves of the cows that had calved on their own.  Again, my help was nominal – like holding tags or looking for new calves, but I like to think company counts for something. 

Thank you Google Images

My least favorite part of calving was the coyote stories.  Coyotes are a rancher’s enemy. They creep in among the cows, find the newborn calves that have not yet gotten their legs under them, and chew the soft tissue – the nose, the hind-quarter, the umbilical area.  The coyotes literally eat the calves alive.  One time when I was still in high school, one of our cows had secluded herself from the herd to calve.  She gave birth to twins, 30 yards apart.  A coyote moved in.  First he went to one calf and when the mother cow charged and chased him away, he circled to the other calf.  It was cold and snowy.  He kept the game up – back and forth, back and forth.  He knew the cow in her weakened condition would soon collapse and then he’d have three meals and enough for friends, too.  When Dad saw the situation, he tried to load the calves in the back of the pick-up so he could drive them to the safety of the herd or barn.  He expected the cow would trot along behind.  However, she was so frenzied in her fight that she didn’t see him as help.  He was as big a threat to her as the coyote and she charged him every time he got near.       

I don’t remember how the story ended (did the coyote get one calf?  both calves? the cow?), but a little detail of no ending hasn’t stopped me from using it as an object lesson . . .  that frantic-racing-back-and-forth-in-a-good-pursuit-but-not-recognizing-the-answer-when-it-comes-because-we’re-too-busy-racing-back-and-forth type of lesson. 

Oh ho.  Yes.  Calvin does wear outfits like this sometimes when he's home.
We were eating supper when he saw a coyote down in the apple trees.
He quietly got his gun, opened the door a crack and got him. 

Calvin doesn’t know how the story ended either, but he never misses the chance to get rid of a coyote.  He holds a grudge sometimes.

Calvin calving.  Good memories.


Susan said...

I'm still chuckling at Calvin and that outfit. Oh my!

tina said...

I didn't know you and Calvin got to be part of so many calves births. That's an interesting tidbit. Love the mockasins (yeah, I have no desire to look up how to spell that right now)!

Kay Scott said...

Love this Jane. I was raised on a ranch too, so this all is very familiar, even down to shooting the coyotes. Great memories.

Becky said...

What amazing was like reading a good novel.

And I did giggle a bit over Calvin's nifty outfit :)

Cali said...

I can still remember the smell of the calving barn and little apartment. I still remember what it looked like inside too. I remember one time a calf died and dad didn't get it removed from the barn before it started rotting. He showed me the maggots and how they would be flies and showed me the fly eggs that would soon be maggots. My first lesson on biology and dad's always made sure I had plenty. I loved remembering these stories mom. Thank you for writing them down.


Ben and Jamie Stott said...

I love reading your blog Sister Payne!! I get to know so much about you, and it makes me love you even more! I miss being in your class, hearing your many stories, and seeing you every day! Love you!!!

Deidra said...

I only got to experience the sweet, wet and awkward calf after the birth at our house (since there was usually only one or two a year).

And thinking of delivering makes me glad I'm not a cow!!

Derek-Jenny-Kaitlynd-Ethan-Dylan said...

Thank you. I always enjoy your posts and lessons therein.

michelle said...

This is all so outside my experience! Wow. You have a lot of interesting memories, Jane. And too funny that you have a photo of Calvin with a coyote.

Jill said...

You are a never ending source of interesting stories!

That poor cow trying to defend her twins, that's rough!

Ande Payne said...

That is very sweet Mom. I loved reading about your newly married life and what you guys did.

Kinda like Sarah Agnes Prine Elliot :)

michelle said...

ooh!! You got compared to Sarah Agnes Prine Elliott!! A high compliment indeed.