My first calving season was so full of wonder and horror, and it still is that way. There is something so darn sweet about those little calves bouncing around. There is nothing more horrifying for me than to get that phone call, I need your help, get your boots on. First if he needs my pitiful help, it is not a good scenario. I cried for years whenever we lost a baby, or as a my son's girlfriend calls them, cow puppies, (city girl) and there are a number of ways that can happen, she can't push him out, too big, or maybe the uterus twisted, back ended and stuck, get dropped into a pile of cold mud, stepped or rolled on, they can freeze their ears off even, this is way more hazardous than I knew.
Seared into one brain cell memory is the first "pull" I saw, "chains and a crank-bar", what....and every time he pulled, my insides lurched, I got dizzy, I think my girl parts seized up recalling two moments they had been "pulled". I was exhausted, I cried. First time mama cows don't know what to expect either, I related to them. I had two C-sections. It sucks, and sorry but I have a hard time believing anyone had a delightful time birthing. Sometimes the cows say screw it, you hurt me bad and I want nothing to do with you, some get over it, some don't, then you have to bottle feed the Lil cow puppy.
I am used to the very long gloves that go up to your shoulder, the giant smelly milk replacement bag in the kitchen, the tubers and bottles, also now in the kitchen for the next couple of months. What I am not used to is that "I forget" how hard it is, just like childbirth, every year, until that first time I hear my husband utter "I don't know, whatever". You see first timers need a lot of attention, so you are getting up every few hours to check on them when it is close, how do you know, they "udder up". Calving season for us last about 3 months, he says two months... never happened. This is major sleep deprivation folks, and not just for him. In Iowa, Feb/March, those cold legs popping in and out of bed wake you up fast. So both of us get a bit wore out, but he gets full out boggly. I should take advantage, but I am too tired myself to get that creative. But it drives me nuts he can't make a simple decision, I hear the words I don't know, multiple times a day, you start to think, My God Man, is this worth it, you are a blithering idiot right now (in the kindest way possible).
So about 3/4 of the way in, I get the blues. I miss my Guy. I miss my sleep. I miss my nice "filter", I hear myself being a tad blunt with people. I am yawning like 150 times a day. The weather is still not the best, people are not dying to come visit us in the mud and crud. I do get on my pitty potty a bit. One day at a time I say to myself. I dream of warmth, while the townies are all on spring break, plastering their epic vacations on facebook, at times, I don't wish them well.
I am not sure when I actually come out of it. I do know I have one night where the whole bottle of wine is gone, and I have sang loudly to and with Van Morrison, moved the furniture around to make it feel different. Then the sun is out, I smell new grass, we are moving the cows and their "pups" out to a lovely pasture, they are so happy, and I ask my hubby a question and he can reply with an actual answer, and all is right with the world again.
My hubby coined this phrase. "How many shit sandwiches do I need to eat in this lifetime". Quite the big question, normally comes during a very unfortunate life event. I won't go into the sheer volume of them, it is quite a list, (as the nurse in ER trying to take his medical history will confirm, after she asked for the third time, "there is more, really, holy shit man"). She said shit too.
It did get me thinking in particular about livestock operators. I did not have a clue what mental fortitude and vast amount of knowledge one person needed, to be successful in this business. I don't want to sound cliche, but as a business person myself, who has run an office of 400 employees, to running a small town bar/restaurant and helping with the cattle business a tad, in total, if I did them all at once, it would not equate to the variety of challenges and sheer work effort I see in these cattlemen doing their thing. It.is.hard. Animals need to be looked after daily, no vacation from that doing that.
Taking the time to understand the nature of life, is HUGE. I had to learn cattle. They have hair not fur, messy births, sickness's like humans, they kick up their heels in the sunshine, cry for mama, strut, have a wide range of attitudes, enjoy a good scratch, genetics, breeding strategies, AI ultrasounds, stressors, diet, and what to watch for so you don't get run over by them. Then I learned about trailer travel, the impact of too much water, not enough water, too hot or cold, too wet, too dry on them and their food supply, death, auctions, sales, fairs and shows, tractors, manure spreaders, skid loaders, feet trimming tables, marketing, seminars, government regulations, equipment repairing, and for me the worst part of it all, banking and all the zillion forms necessary to keep it all going, and the loan payments. Plenty of places for shit sandwiches to appear.
One of the biggest shit sandwiches is the weather. You know how often weather predictions come true, no one wants to have their incomes rely upon good weather. Plus you have the physical dangers, when you are around moving, breathing 1500 pound creatures daily and fixing moving equipment, shit happens and it gets emotional.
In truth, I did not get real country living until I married into it, and the general public has a hard time understanding what animal farmers go through, no government subsidies for them either. They rarely have time to educate, they are too busy doing. Passion is the only logical thing that keeps people in this career. With the floods in the Midwest that have killed tens of thousands of cattle, it is almost hard to breathe, knowing the pain and depression that is happening to people who have worked this hard to keep us fed and clothed. My tears and prayers seem small knowing they need to bury so many.
The shit sandwiches won't stop, the world keeps turning, chaos ebbs and flows, but it also proves how resilient we humans are, gives us the opportunity to communicate with each other at an intimate level, which can help our heart find our soul again, and connect and grow into better humans. All part of the journey on this planet. In the end it is all about love anyway, and I see love in the eyes of these cowboys for their herds and humanity both.
Being from the Twin Cities you sort of assume you are kind of outdoorsy, since most people fear living there due to the temps and snow. So while I did detour to Colorado for a while, I ended up in Iowa, (don't confuse with the potato state of Idaho), on a farm, with a cowboy, cows and two boys, for the last 21 years. I did not have a clue what country life was really like. I have learned a lot! It has been a bumpy ride, so it is with this thing called life.
My friends think of me as a sort of city, country, storytelling, stardusty, peace love mama, which I prefer to bat shit crazy ( I am not) but I do know plenty of them. I do say shit, a great deal, and I write shit a great deal, so if that is a big icky word for you go elsewhere. Also, I write the way I think, fair warning for you grammar nuts.
I love MN and the trees and water in my youth. I love Colorado and knowing which way is west all the time, and the smells in the beautiful mountains, in my wandering years. I love Iowa for the bonfire burnings and growing up even more, with some wonderful humans in a small town.
Being on the planet this long and experiencing the life I chose along with the aging process, gives me quite a bit to ponder...and share. I hope you enjoy my journey's ramblings.
It is all sparkles and stardust, peace and love to you in every way! D
PS Thanks maxpixel for the great photo
Country lesson numero uno. I like to think that 95% of the time I have accepted these shiny dust particles as part of my life now. The other 5% of the time I am saying very bad words about it. I pay $430 a year to keep it from swallowing me whole and making my home unfit to live in. They spray the road with what I hope to God is some sort of "green" chemical twice a year, so the vehicles careening down the road, don't create dust clouds that swarm over our entire acreage. I have even dreamed of instigating an "accidental oil spill " in front of my house, and bribed road maintenance to look the other way. My dark side. The saying from dust to dust, feels a bit creepy, when it's constantly visible.
Chatting of road maintenance, this is a constant activity in the country on every gravel road 7 months out of the year. They need to contour, grate and dump gravel on the roads. Sometimes your straddling large long mounds of dirt for miles, and hope like heck another car does not come at you, or you could tear your exhaust pipe off hitting that mound. Grating summons from the depths of the earth any nail, screw, glass or jagged piece of metal that apparently was left in the middle of nowhere. These items will find their way into my car tires so frequently I have the local tire shop on speed dial, I know all about the owners family from spending so much time together. It baffles me that farm machinery could have spewed all this debris over time and still be drive-able.
So very much "tire talk" there is young Jedi. We actually have piles of tires, piles. Someday I think we will haul them somewhere.
Life on Gravel
About the Author
City girl sharing stories of a life full of country glitter and other shit.