Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Barn(yard) Dance

Old Ranch. The barnyard is out there.
Near the  . . . ummm . . . barn.
My very first ranch memory occurred when I was two. 
I had my new little red cowboy boots on. I was ready for anything. 
Dad was out in the blacksmith shop and I knew he would be happy to see me. Certainly, I would be happy to see him and though there was a fence and a large barnyard between us, I decided to make the journey. 
I'm afraid I rather discounted the importance of . . . the Cow.
Oh, I knew she was there. I just didn't think it was important.
It was the custom in those days to take the calf away from the milk cow and only put the two of them together morning and evening, after the cow had been milked. That way, the cow’s production stayed very high, we were assured a constant supply of milk, and the calf received enough to ensure its proper growth.
A good system all around.
Except that one usually ended up with a rather irate, over-protective full-grown mama cow wandering at will in the barnyard. 
No problem. If you were an adult, or very fast.
I probably don't have to tell you - I was neither . . .
I approached the gate.
I don't know what it is about little children. But cows seem to think they are something dangerous. A dog, perhaps. Or a coyote or wolf.
I do know that this particular cow spotted me the moment I came into view.
And went into instant I-must-watch-this-creature-because-I-have-a-baby-and-who-knows-what-said-creature-may-do mode.
I stood just inside the gate and watched her. 
She looked . . . nervous. Twitchy.
Perhaps what she needed was some conversation!
Having been raised to nearly three on a ranch, I was fully confident of my ability to speak cow. I walked over to the fence, put my face against the bars of the gate and proceeded to bellow impressively. I don’t know what I said, but it must have been interesting because the cow began to make noises of her own. 
And then she started running feints at the gate. 
Being two, I thought she was merely trying to amaze me. I continued to ‘talk’. She continued to react.
We were communicating.
Finally, in a positive froth, she pounded over to the barn to make sure that her baby was still in his pen, unharmed. 
The way was clear for me to climb the fence and cross the no-man’s (or children's) land that was the barn yard. I proceeded to do so. 
I probably made it a few yards before she hit me. I don’t remember much about that part.
My mother takes over the story from there.
She had been working in the kitchen and keeping an eye on me through the window. She had seen me standing beside the gate. Suddenly, as with any toddler, I disappeared. She didn't waste time in searching. She knew instinctively where I had gone. She started out on the run, spotting me just as I dropped down from the fence in triumph.
On the cow side.
Mom’s sight was obscured for a few moments as she ran. 
Trees. Sweat. Whatever. 
By the time she again had me in her sights, I was down and the cow was turning for a second engagement.
Mom leapt the fence at a single bound (maybe she opened the gate and ran through, but this sounds better) reaching me just ahead of the black and white frenzy. 
She scooped me up and screamed for my Dad, while the cow tried to knock me out of her arms. For a few seconds, Mom avoided the angry, gesticulating cow by spinning, pirouetting gracefully.
There was some real ‘bull-fighter’ potential in my mother.
But soon, the cow tired of the performance and changed tactics. 
She decided that the best way to the child was through the mother. Fortunately this new ‘barn(yard) dance’ with me at the centre was cut short by the arrival of my enraged father.
When anyone, or anything, was threatening one of his children, my dad would . . . well let me put it this way. 
Mount Vesuvius. 
In work boots. 
Needless to say, in short order, the cow forgot all about her ongoing problems with me and  headed for the nearest far-away place with her tail tucked – figuratively speaking – between her legs, while a tear-stained toddler was being closely examined by two anxious parents. 
My only injuries were a couple of bruises and a red cowboy boot crushed flat. 
My sense of adventure remained unscathed.
My poor parents.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, dear - you really had no fear, did you? :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can see your mother leaping the gate in a single bound.

    ReplyDelete
  3. OH - Diane. Your parents had their work cut out for them, didn't they? So glad no one was badly hurt and the cow was tamed. My mother grew up on a dairy farm, and tells a story of when she (six or so years older than you were here) had an issue with a bull, and her cousin swooped in to save her. Perhaps these early bovine experiences helped shape you both into the remarkable women that you are!

    ReplyDelete

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