Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If You Want to Be Clean, Stay out of the Corral!

Oh sure, she looks clean now . . .

I've decided that ranching is not 'clean' work.

I had been herdsman for my Dad for several months.
This combined my favourite activity, riding, with various other responsibilities.
Like checking the herd every day for cows that were calving.
Cows that looked like they were about to start calving.
Or cows that looked like they were thinking about starting to calve.
Ranching takes a lot of head work.
Also helping them when it became necessary.
And hauling feed.
Cleaning pens.
And grubbing around the barnyard doing whatever Dad came up with.
Yep. Not clean work at all.
This day, though, I was determined to stay . . . unsoiled.
My new boyfriend was stopping by and I wanted him to see me as the picture-perfect cowgirl. 
Sun in her hair and smelling of the outdoors - grass, sage, and fresh air.
Things started well.
I buckled the riding pad on my horse.
Thus eliminating the possibility of being covered with hair when he arrived.
I rode out to the calving pasture.
It was a bright, fresh morning with just a bit of a breeze.
I finished my initial sweep.
The easy, treeless part of the field.
No cows inconveniently doing messy things.
I started back, this time through the brush and small trees.
Still nothing.
Everyone was grazing happily, or contentedly lying down, chewing their cud.
It was a peaceful scene.
A clean scene.
I rode into the last copse (real word, I looked it up) of trees.
And there she was.
That one cow determined to undermine my perfectly planned morning.
Obviously calving.
And just as obviously having trouble.
I rode over.
Yep. Trouble.
The calf's head and feet had emerged, but the little creature was obviously caught at the shoulders.
Poor thing.
Thoughts of my pristine wardrobe disappeared as I considered my next move.
The cow had to be herded to the ranch buildings.
And quickly.
We made it in record time, considering she was in heavy labour.
Finally, she was enclosed in the nearest empty corral.
I slid off my horse and quickly erected a 'pen' of plank walls around her, further hemming her in.
Then I reached for the calf's little white feet.
But this cow didn't want my help.
And certainly wasn't disabled by any discomfort she might be feeling.
I should have realized that a cow who had made the trip from the field to the ranch building at the speed she had, while in labour, was actually Supercow.
As my hands closed firmly over her calf's feet, she made a leap, flattening my hastily-erected fence and pulling me through the rubble.
Now a normal person probably would have let go at that point.
I guess I'm not normal.
Because I didn't.
Let go, that is.
Instead, I desperately hung on to those feet as the cow pulled me around the corral.
Through the dust.
And a couple of icky pools.
And that's when the calf . . . fell out.
Soon, mother and baby were happily together.
And I was headed to the ranch house.
I needn't tell you how I looked.
From head to foot.
My boyfriend's truck and I reached the front gate together.
It's all about timing.


  1. Well, he knows you are no wimp, that's for sure.

  2. Oh yuck! I shouldn't laugh, but I just had to on this one. :) I KNOW what corrals look like! My husband just cleaned ours out to get ready for separating calves for auction next month. He hauled out about 8 backhoe buckets worth of manure. I can just see this scene of you being drug around in a manure filled corral with calf birth all over you! YUCK again! hahaha... you have all my sympathies! I think I would have died. Literally. Thanks for this one today. :)

  3. I'm smiling--HUGE.
    I pretty much love your life :)
    Any good-worth-it-guy would've thought you were AWESOME!

  4. HAhaha! I live on a small farm and lambing season's just finished ... I guess 'smelling of the outdoors' can be ambiguous!! And 'planning' is a bit of a nebulous concept!!

  5. Oh my word -- please don't read my mouse post today or you're going to think I'm the biggest goober in the world!

    Your post reminded me. When I was BARELY pregnant with Buddy, we had the missionaries over. One of the missionaries was from a ranching family and had spent most of his teenage life out with the cattle. We didn't tell them we were pregnant, but when we did tell them a few months later the OTHER missionary burst out laughing. He said that the rancher missionary (who'd since been transferred) had left the dinner that night and told him, "That sister is calving. She's got the look in her eye - she's calving."

    Of course, Doc thought that was hysterical. I told the missionary to tell that other missionary to NEVER use the word calving with a female HUMAN again :)


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