Lady in Waiting

We live in a very small rural community...Grantsville, Utah. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County) and even though the San Fernando Valley was once acres and acres of orange and lemon groves, by the time I was in junior high most of the fruit trees and fruit stands were gone...the land bought up for housing. When I moved away, just a few years after finishing high school, there wasn't on open space to be found anywhere.

Since leaving California I've lived in Utah and Texas. Provo, Utah was very rural in 1976 when I arrived there. When I moved to Texas in 2012, Provo was a crowded and congested place. We moved to Roanoke, Texas in 2012 and though Dallas/Fort Worth is a really big city, Roanoke felt very rural as ranches surround the little town. When we moved back to Utah, living along the Wasatch Front was not an option. With high-density housing and freeway congestion, which may be second only to Dallas, and never mind the cost of housing...we ended up in Grantsville, Utah.

I tell this story only to shed some light on my journey to a rural and quiet place. For the past two summers the pastureland behind our home has produced some beautiful alfalfa. In late September, just before the last harvest, the alfalfa blooms with bright purple blossoms and the sweet fragrance fills the evening air. It is a joy to sit outside in the evening breeze after many hours working in the garden...sipping an adult beverage...and enjoying a day well spent.

But something changed. A few weeks ago thirty or so cows were brought into the pasture. They grazed and grazed until all the alfalfa was gone and their caregivers started bringing in hay because nothing was left growing on the ground. Finally, I realized that all the cows were expecting. Who knew that with the birth of the first calf I would spend every morning at the window watching them eat the fresh hay spread across the pasture in long trails and looking for newborns. It's amazing to watch the little ones struggle to stand minutes after being born looking for their mother's nourishment. 

Today I watched the herd as a dog approached and intruded in on the pasture. Two cows noticed the dog and began walking toward it. The dog scampered away, but didn't leave the pasture. All of a sudden all the cows took notice and because, like human mommas, they protect their young, every cow headed in the direction of the dog. Some of them walking slowly, but many running towards the trespasser to protect their precious calves.

I've lost count now of how many calves have arrived in the alfalfa pastureland, but I have my eye on one particular cow. There's one black and white cow...I call her the field. She looks as though she's ready to burst. I can't wait to see her calf. It's surprising what becomes important when life slows down a bit. I'm honored to have a window into their world. 

March 15, 2018

Over the past several days since my first post, I have watched the drama of birth and near death in the pastureland outside my window. I witnessed a cow in labor an entire day with the calf half in and half out. Mother cow could not deliver her calf with out the help of the rancher and a come-along. As the calf was pulled from her mother's womb onto the hard ground, both mother and calf lay like large black blobs in the grass. It was hours before either of them moved and I'm afraid I fretted away most of the day wondering if both had died or what would mother cow do without her calf. Cows are bonded to their young immediately and she would know her calf was gone. Much later in the fading light, I could see mom and calf standing far off in the heart relieved. 

By morning’s light, another calf had been born. As I watched the first hours of the calf's life play out, unlike what I'd witnessed the day before, mother cow would not accept her offspring and the little calf flew in the air as mom head butted the little one over and over again. Finally, I noticed the rancher in his truck across the field watching what was taking place. At least I knew someone was there to watch out for this tiny creature. By days end, mother cow was corralled away from her calf for a time so both could recover from the birth process. They are together now in the same corral...away from all the other cattle.

March 16, 2018

Today, all of the cattle have now been rounded up and moved elsewhere. I watched as two ranchers on horseback gently gathered all the mommas and their calves and drove them to waiting trucks. One little calf would not follow the others and the ranchers came back to get the little one after all the others where loaded up. They came in a truck to capture the outlier and once they did one of the ranchers sat in the back of the truck holding the calf as they headed to the waiting trailer. It seemed to me that these men truly cared about their herd.

I don't fully understand my emotional investment into the lives of these cows and calves, but I will miss them. Their story isn't finished and I won't know what happens next...Polka-dot hasn't delivered her calf yet, but obviously I know the end of the story. For whatever reason, what comes to mind is that I left the hospital without one of my babies. During this brief life cycle going on outside my window, I wonder if my heart revisited the loss of my child. It's another story all together about the loss of that baby girl, but I just could not imagine even a cow losing a calf.


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