Part of our Ranchidents series
Ranchidents: noun: 1: RANCH ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS 2: All those funny, frustrating, and famous stories that develop as a result of living on a ranch.
We found him, shivering and confused, standing on the steps of our pool. The worst part was that his mother, grazing somewhere with the other cows, didn’t even seem to notice he was missing. We pulled him out of the water, dried him off, and laid him in a big picnic blanket. He was so exhausted that he plopped right down. My parents lifted the corners of the blanket and carried it, like a drooping hammock, to the barn.
When you live on a ranch, everyday can be an adventure. The day we found a newborn calf on the first step of our pool was especially memorable. We named the little calf Moses because we drew him out of the water. He was a white Brahman calf with a crown of red fuzz on the top of his head. While most Brahman cows are known for their nurturing and mothering skills, his mother was not. We assumed that she gave birth to him and then left him to wander under the fence, all the way up the hill and to our pool.
When we called up all the cows and got Moses’s mother into the pen with him, she wouldn’t even get near him, and when he feebly tried to get to her udder, she kicked him away. We quickly got her away from her rejected calf and brought Moses back to his blanket. He lay there docilely while my brothers and I petted him and kept our three curious dogs away. As I rested his head in my lap, he suckled my knee, trying to no avail to get some food into his empty belly.
My dad brought the mother into the cow shoot and managed to milk her a little bit while my mom went to buy a calf bottle and some powder. Calves, my dad explained, need to have their mother’s milk within an hour after birth or they can die.
While my brothers and I were excited to have a calf that we could pet and bottle feed, we quickly learned that raising a calf is a lot more work than fun. Every morning and every evening, we mixed up the formula in the big bottle and brought it out to Moses in his pen. He eagerly drained the whole thing, but our arms still got tired from holding the heavy bottle at the right angle. We had to put him in the barn every night to keep him safe, and every morning we had to muck out his stall. One evening, he was attacked by a wild dog. He survived, but he was never quite right in the head after that (but of course, can’t you say that about every cow?).
Unexpected episodes that lead to a lot of unplanned work are just a part of life on a ranch. While you come to accept them, you’re never quite prepared. Like when the dogs find a skunk too near the house; or when the horse decides it would be fun to chase the cows across the property until they jump the neighbor’s fence; or when the calf you raised gets a little too aggressive for his own good because he never developed a healthy fear of people. Living on a ranch teaches you a lot about hard work, a lot about unexpected losses and unexpected gains. It also teaches you that everyday can make for a great story.
Eventually, we had to let Moses go. By then, there were other animals to take care of and other unexpected mishaps to learn from.
Do you have a great farm or ranch story? Share it in the comments section or send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured on our new Ranchidents series.