The little lost calf and the case of the aliens
The morning opened with a beautiful sunrise. It was just the beginning of the calving season on the ranch but there was an older cow in Pleasant Valley in active labor. The prerogative of the cowboys is to let "her do the work at her own pace.”
She was doing it.
The two front feet were visible from yards away. The cow circled the same area repeated times. She finally lay down and in just two long heaving motions out he came. The calf was pure black with an adorable pink nose and two little flappy ears. She was a good mom. She cleaned him up "lickety split" (pun intended).
In just minutes, he is on his wobbly four hooves and making his way to his very first breakfast. Suddenly, the cow steps away from her nursing calf and calls to him in a low murmur. She feels threatened. She's not sure that her baby is safe where they are.
He is so very small and not yet ready to go anywhere but his mother insists that it is time to go. Due to her overwhelming need to protect her calf, the cow and her adorable little calf are moving rather quickly toward the southern hillside for some privacy. Within minutes, they are both out of sight and heading to the creek.
I am worried.
Time to take action. Should I follow the pair and persuade her not to cross the creek, or call my husband the cattleman? I called my husband...brave action, right? I know. It is the smarter choice, though.
According to Steve, her tracks tell that she and calf successfully crossed the creek and were heading to the “Williams trees" area of the ranch. It seemed all would be okay so I wrote it off as another day on the ranch and went on about my business.
Days pass and life moved on. In passing, I asked about the cow and calf. He reported that the cow was seen walking down County Road 24 toward the highway and was put into a pasture on the other side without a calf. After thinking it through he became concerned; I was beyond concerned. Where did the little calf end up? He was only a few days old and now without his mother.
"How will you find him?” I asked my cowboy. He responded, "by being smarter than that damn cow."
He searched the hillside for what seemed hours and called me at work. He was dismayed, "there is no sign of Your Little Lost Calf...wait....what is that? Well, I'll be damned, I found him." The calf was hiding off the beaten path in a hole between two dead trees. "Now,” he says, "the fun part...gotta catch the Little Lost Calf."
Steve took a minute to think it through and decided the direct approach would be the fastest. The infant cow was lying in a ball with his face under his front hoof. I believe the calf must have been thinking, "If I can't see the alien, the alien can't see me."
With two large strides, Steve reached over the downed log and grabbed for the calf's hoof. In the blink of an eye, the calf "came to life" and took flight like an antelope. Those little calves have a lot of speed when it comes to running from an "alien."
Steve gathered his hat off the ground and looked up to see the calf disappear into the brush. The plan then became....get help and, maybe, a dog. Yes, more "aliens" and a dog to smell out the "waspy" little critter.
The "crew" returned after lunch and found the Little Lost Calf in the exact same spot...in the exact same position..."aliens can't see me." This time the cowboys were ready. Five men, five ropes and one goal...catch one Little Lost Calf who has been without his mother for more than three days. Seems like a "slam dunk" for the cowboys, right? They all stepped in. Rope one thrown...missed...calf is in full run mode. Ropes two and three thrown....missed...cowboys in full run mode. Rope four thrown…one hind leg caught. Rope five thrown...around the neck...the "running man" has been caught.
The calf is tied for transport and the cowboys take a much needed breath (lasting about 15 minutes).
By the time the transport vehicle arrives at the distant pasture with the anxious calf, his mother has reached the gate to the pasture and has begun the celebratory bawling to her calf. The family is finally reunited and all is right with the world. The morals to this story: Aliens don't often arrive alone and, stay with your mother when you travel.
Erin Stadelman is a rancher's wife and a devoted caretaker of children, grandchildren, horses and cows alike.