Friday, April 20, 2007

Wee Calfie is a Big Girl Now

I scramble out of bed earlier than I want to because Morris asks for help to get the cattle out onto the grass, including my calf, he says, in case I was not inclined to help initially. I have added another truism to my lore about cattle: just as you can't eat one potato chip; you can't move just one animal. Well, not easily at any rate.

Morris and I set out to move Wee Calfie while David finished feeding the cattle and opening and closing the gates so that she would get to the right field. She had been put in the pen with other cattle whose fate is not long term on the farm. From the moment I started feeding Wee Calfie, I told her and everyone else that her destiny was to be the Mother of Champions. Today was the day she would go out to the field where the bull, who has been bellowing with increasing intensity these last few days, will be joining her and the other heifers in a few days. If, that is, we can get her on her own to the field.

The first step was deceptively easy. As we approach the pen, Wee Calfie has already spotted me and comes up to be patted and steps out of the pen easily. Once, however, in the open corridor, she remembers what we used to do. She remembers the old choreography. I would feed her and then she and I would run up and down the paddock. This was cute when she was a little wobbly-kneed calf. Now it was scaring the hell out of me. One inadvertent glancing blow from her frolicking heels would send me to the emergency room or worse, so Wee Calfie danced alone as we persuaded her down the ramp toward the little door. I stood by the gate that she was not meant to go behind--an open, strawed paddock next to one of the bulls.

She sailed past me and danced all the way up and down the straw-filled dance floor until she noticed the bull, who had also noticed her. Wee Calfie is a big girl now. Eventually with Morris encouraging her from a safe distance behind and me calling her from in front, she came as far as the little door. The door is not really little. It is human sized; the other doors are animal and machine-size, so it is only by comparison that it is small. It is small enough, however, that Wee Calfie hesitates in the doorway and for an instant she and I are both wondering if she will fit through it. Wee Calfie is a big girl now.

Through the door. I begin to breathe easily again only to lose her again to the madcap choreography of her lost youth. After visiting with her friends, she trots toward me and we get her around the bend in the road. She stops by the paddock where she spent her first weeks and waits for the gate to be open. When it doesn't open, she admires the grass on either side of the road and turns back toward terra cognita. If Columbus had been a cow, the vikings would have colonized North America.

We compromise with Wee Calfie and get her in the "boxing ring"--a pen used for temporary holding of animals being transitioned from one place to another. We move the next two pens of cattle out and she tries to join in with them. We move the next bunch and she looks confused and lonely. I pet her and try to explain, but she is unsettled. I give her some hay as I run off to make sure the tiny knot of cattle stay bunched and turn where they need to be. All the others have now been moved without a hitch. I accept a ride back from the far field in the bucket of the front loader.

In front of the barn, Morris is ready to call it quits until later in the day, but I feel responsible for Wee Calfie, alone now and dispirited in the boxing pen. I get sent to open the gate into the field where Wee Calfie can start the next chapter in fulfilling her destiny. I have barely got the gate open before I turn around and see Wee Calfie standing there looking around. She sees me, and without missing a step, turns easily into the gate.

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At 1:08 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

ahh, lovely. perhaps that little spell by herself made her ready to explore new gateways...

At 10:15 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Yes, a little retreat does wonders for us all.


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