Love is in the air

by Katie on February 15, 2012

I don’t know about you, but we had the typical American Valentine’s Day out here in the desert.

We professed our love to one another over slightly heart-shaped pancakes (I tried, that deserves points, right?). And only got more romantic from there.

…We went our separate ways to plow a field (Brandon), feed cows and handle some business with our county Farm Service Agency (Katie).

Around lunch, we reconvened at the cattle pens to check on a calf I had reported to Brandon as not looking so great that morning. As suspected, it was still “not looking so great,” so we decided to go ahead and catch all the cows and calves (only four each) in that pen and move them over to the pasture to join the rest of them, since we needed to pen/chute the new calf and mama cow, and planned to process all the calves over there in just a couple days.

We needed some meds for the sickly new calf, so we went home to gather those and eat lunch. Later, we met back at the farm when it was time to move the cows and tend to the calf in question.

The first order of operation was to load the four pairs into the trailer. All four cows and two calves loaded no problem (this counts the sick one we carried in). Which left us with two crazy calves that escaped the loading-area pen and sent us running all over the pasture with a lasso after them.

Eventually, we got one cornered in a small pen, and after several attempts to toss a rope around his neck, I said, “Want me to just tackle him?”

I guess Brandon finally decided that wasn’t such a bad idea, because a few minutes later, he climbed into the pen and when he had an opportunity, launched himself onto the  calf. But he ended up with the tail-end, and was only holding onto about one hind leg, with the calf fighting to get through the fence.

I couldn’t help but get caught up watching, perhaps laughing, at the calf-wrestling event taking place five feet in front of me, before Brandon yelled politely asked, “Are you going to stand there and laugh, or do you think you could help!? Get on ‘im!”

So I sprung into action, climbed through the fence, and tackled the front end of the calf.

Now that’s a Valentine’s Day activity, right there:  team-tackling a calf.

On to the next order of business:  milking the cow with the sick calf to make sure we got some colostrum in it. Together, of course, with love (and other odors) in the air.

I had the privilege of holding the wet, nasty tail while Brandon milked so he didn’t get swatted with all that nastiness. Pretty soon, we realized the calf-tuber we needed was at home, so I would need to take over the milking while he ran home to get it.

“So who’s going to hold the tail for me, then?” I inquired, knowing the answer, more to point it out than anything.

“Uh, no one,” Brandon answered, matter-of-factly, and after watching me get one successful stream of milk in the bottle, he was off.

Things were actually running along fairly smoothly, I had “gotten a rhythm,” if you will, and was actually starting to feel some pride swell at the thought of handing over all my hand-milked glory to Brandon when he returned.

But lo and behold, that cow had other plans. I guess she decided she’d had enough of being crammed in the chute lane, because she took one step forward, then launched the entire front half of her 1200-pound body up and over the chute rails.

In true Katie fashion, I panicked, but luckily recovered enough to get her back down without breaking a leg (which I was pretty sure was going to happen at one point). Thinking the craziness was over, I returned to my milking. But five minutes later, I barely got our precious colostrum-gold out of the way before I had a giant cow up in the air again.

This time was different. This time, the side of the chute flung open, sending the wild-eyed cow crashing down, barely missing her calf we had lying near the chute, and then tearing through the chute area, trying to escape, knocking a big metal table we use in there over, right next to the calf’s head, and causing all sorts of turmoil. Before I even started working on getting the cow back under control, I carried our milk bottle all the way to the truck. No way was I taking any chance on that thing getting spilled.

I soon had her back in the chute, but I was ruined for working with her for the day. I was shook up, already defeated in controlling her, and just wanted to be done. Brandon soon arrived and listened to my explanation of events, but apparently was not nearly as frazzled, because he immediately had us attempt to shove her up to the front of the chute lane again, where she promptly propelled herself over the rail, again opening the side gate and crashing through into our work area, nearly trampling her calf.

Let me just admit right here, that we probably were not using particularly loving words with one another at that moment. You see, each of us has a mile-wide stubborn streak, and each of us knew “the best” way to handle the situation. And they were not the same.

But we managed to get the cow back in anyway, and Brandon made a final attempt to get just a bit more milk. And this is where the real fun began. Because my job? My job was to keep the crazy, chute-jumping cow in the chute.

This is the scenario we’re talking here:

“Weighing in this corner, at just under 140 pounds, already shaking in her boots, we have Katie! Weighing in the opposite corner, at more than 1200 pounds, we have a crazed, wild-eyed, self-propelling mama cow!”

…I’ll let you make your bets now.

Basically, every three minutes , the cow would come roaring up and out of the chute lane, with me yelling and trying to punch her nose to keep her in. None of that was effective, so over the top rail both her front feet would come, within mere inches of my face, mind you, all the while my arms are swinging wildly in the air, but now only hitting metal rather than beast. And I will be the first to admit that something about being underneath a crazy cow lunging herself over your head is, well…unsettling, to say the least.

So, after about the fifth time, my hand was numb from beating all that metal, I was scared of the cow (which I learned at age eight only spells disaster after that), and I was completely ineffective at keeping her in the chute. Brandon had, let’s call it…lost his patience.

Cue the tears. Right now, I’m laughing at myself, thinking about the tears shed over a cow yesterday afternoon. But at the time, I was far from amused.

I just can’t do it!” I wailed.

Finally, Brandon figured that between his crying wife and crazy cow, he had enough milk to make do for one day. So we gave up, sent the cow into a pen, tubed the calf with what we had, and called it a day after our bouts with team calf wrestling, cow milking and nonsense tears.

And Brandon mocked me the entire way home.

So yeah, just your typical American Valentine’s Day.

At least there was lots of good, quality time together, right?


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