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express permission of Barbara Power.
Calving heifers will make any country woman old in a hurry. Especially when the heifer has no concept that she might require a humans help during this difficult time.
Young cows often have trouble giving birth to their first calves, particularly if they are too young, too short and dumpy, or bred to a bull that is genetically disposed to throw large calves. As a safeguard, we routinely pen our calving heifers where we can assist them if the need arises.
Usually I find calving heifers an interesting and rewarding experience. I mean what can be more wonderful than helping a new life into the world? Then came Bossie. This heifer was young and short and dumpy and extremely unhappy to be in a pen by herself. She was also springing heavy (ready to give birth).
One evening just before dark, I made my tenth trip of the day to check on her. She had been showing early signs of labor and I was convinced a successful calving would require the assistance of me as mid-wife. When I reached the barn, however, I found the corral gate open and Bossie gone. I stared with trepidation at the 20 acres of brush land that she had escaped into. I had to find her before dark.
An hour after searching fruitlessly on foot, I finally saddled a horse. And as fate would have it, I found her standing in the middle of a thorn thicket on the backside of the pasture just as the last rays of the sun faded from the sky. She was now showing signs of advanced labor and would require assistance soon.
I tried driving her out of the thicket by yelling and waving my arms, but she knew she was safe and refused to budge, so I dismounted, tied my horse to a sapling, and waded into the thorn thicket. She stood right there and watched me until, scratched and torn, I made it into her small clearing. Then, dodging past me, she ran out the way I had just come in, spooking my horse into jerking loose and heading for home, bridle reins flying. By the time I scrambled my way back out of the thicket, Bossie was gone, my horse was at home, and the sun had set.
The mosquitoes accompanied me home, where I learned that my husband was still at work, and my sons had not returned from a necessary trip to town. Meaning simply that I had to find that heifer by myself.
Armed with a four-wheel drive pickup, a spot-light, mosquito spray, and my calving equipment, I returned to my search. (I did stop long enough to remove the tack from my now happy horse and give him some feed).
This time, Bossie didnt intend to be found. I drove places in that pasture that even four-wheel drive vehicles werent supposed to go, including over a mesquite sapling that nearly high-centered my truck. I had to back cautiously off the tree and find another way through that particular area. (The boys later spent a half hour de-branching the ranch truck).
I did find a deer, three rabbits, a skunk, and a family of raccoons, but no Bossie. My husband joined the search two hours later, spent fifteen minutes surveying the situation, and declared Bossie unfindable until daylight and went home to a cold supper and bed. My boys never did show up.
I searched for that heifer for two more hours until I was exhausted, frustrated, furious with my husband, and convinced that I had allowed Bossie and the calf to die a terrible death. With that thought in mind, I searched another hour. After all, where could one cow be in only twenty acres?
It was almost 2:00 a.m. when I gave up. I went home, fell into bed, slept a little, and woke up groggy, tired, and rumpled. By dawn, I was beginning my thousandth trip around, through, and across that pasture.
There she was.
There she was standing in the same thicket I had chased her out of the evening before. She was standing there licking the prettiest red baby I think Ive ever seen. She shook her head at me threateningly as I tried to get close enough to make sure she and the calf were both okay. I took that as warning enough to leave her alone and went home to bed where this aging country woman needed to be.
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