Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Warmth From Unusual Places

Today's post comes from a guest writer.
My baby brother, Blair. 
Who also grew up on the ranch.
With me.
Blair. With another wet, slimy calf . . .
Dad was an experienced rancher and veterinarian.
And very good at detecting which pregnant cow was going to calve next.
When a cow was due, dad and I would sometimes place bets over bowls of ice cream about the day and time the calf would enter this world.  If dad won, I dished him a bowl of ice cream.  If I won, I dished dad a bowl of ice cream.
Hey, wait a minute . . . 
The problem was, when a snow or rain storm suddenly blew in we could count on 2 or 3 cows that were close to calving suddenly dropping their nice bundle of red and white into the wet snow or mud.  Dad said it had something to do with the change in air pressure.
One year in the early spring we had many cows that were expected to calve in the next few days.  Mom and dad had to go out of town for the day, so I was left in charge with a reminder that we had 2 or 3 cows that were due.  I completed the normal chores, checked the cows, and then went to school.  The weather had been clear until about the last half hour of school when it started to snow.  I knew that there was a good chance that one or two cows had calved so I headed home as soon as school was over.
Now as a teenager, I loved driving anything that made a vroom sound and there was just enough snow for me to take the snowmobile out into the field where the cows were located. 
Sometimes I could mix work with machines (bonus).
I quickly took my powered sled out to the group of expecting mamas to see if any had calved and if they had done so, make sure the calves were dry and happy. As I got out into the field I found that two cows had dropped their calves.  Both mamas were mature and should have been able to take care of their calves without any problems.  One cow had licked off her calf.  He was dry and happily nursing.  
I should tell you that there are times when cows seem to blow a mental fuse.
The second cow was demonstrating this phenomena.
She had dropped her heifer calf in the middle of the wet snow and was standing staring at her very wet - very cold baby. She was not licking the calf, she was not trying to nurse the calf, she was just staring.
I decided that all I could do was take the cow and calf to the barn. Normally when you pick up a new born calf and take it to another place like a barn or corral, the mother will follow you.
In some cases, the mother will try to dance on you and make you hurt very badly (see some of my sisters previous posts). 
But most of our cows were tame and would just follow you.
I stress most cows.
I picked up the very cold, wet, shivering calf - that also had lots of wet goo from its birth all over it - and climbed on the snowmobile. I placed the calf on my lap. I would get wet and slimy but I could take care of that later.
I started driving the snowmobile to the barn. 
Now remember the part where the cow usually follows?
In this case, she was still suffering from the blown fuse. She continued to stand and gaze at the spot that her wet calf had once occupied.
I realized that I would have to return and herd the cow back to the barn as well.
I was not happy about this because it meant that I would be very wet, slimy, and cold for an additional 20 minutes.
I quietly expressed my disappointment, using a few expressions that we had previously refined when dealing with other ??*%$# cows. 
For now I would take the heifer calf to the barn.
I should mention that wet snow was falling while I was out in the field with these cows and it continued to fall as I drove back to the barn with the wet slimy calf on my lap. I was cold and wet from the snow, slimy from the calf and very uncomfortable.
Normally, I would wind up the machine and zip back to the barn, but I had a new born calf and I needed to make the trip at more of a moderate pace.
I was about half way when my left hand got really nice and warm.  
I thought how nice, my hand is warm and I feel less cold, wet, and miserable.
Then I realized that the calf was peeing in my mitt.
Now I was cold, wet, and miserable with a mitt full of calf pee.
Well at least I knew that the urinary system was working well. 
I got to the barn, dropped off the heifer, grabbed a clean pair of mitts, drove back and chased in Blown Fuse.
She started mothering her calf and I started wondering if she intentionally blew a fuse so she could be nice and dry in the barn.
I later shared my experience with my dad.
He just laughed and told me that he had carried a bull calf across the front of his saddle while riding his horse and the calf was kind enough to pee on the saddle that my dad was sitting on.
Oh well it all comes off with soup and water.

Pee. S. Diane had the same thing happen with her brand new riding pad. Sigh.

10 comments:

  1. Aha! Another family member with the story telling gene and ... similar sense of humour :) Great story! It seems the worse the situation at the time, the better the story it makes ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. It's a weakness . . .
      So true. The worse then, the better now!

      Delete
  2. What a funny story! I love reading about your childhoods, what a wonderful childhood you must have had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny, but I thought everyone had the same childhood. It's only now that I'm realizing how different we were . . .

      Delete
  3. What a great story, I love hearing about your childhoods. What a wonderful family you have.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've never heard of cows blowing fuses before, it's a good thing you went out to check. That poor baby must have been getting very cold.

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOL--I can totally imagine this. Thanks for sharing it! (p.s. I have it on good authority that sheep suffer from the same blown fuse problem from time to time.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never worked with sheep. But we had an expression in our cattle-ranching family: 'Dumb as the proverbial sheep'. Maybe there was something to it! :)

      Delete
  6. Oh, my goodness. It's all I can do to get my kids to mow our teensy lawn. No one here ever had a cow pee on them before, although, with their country grandparents there have been bum lambs here and there to bottle feed.

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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