March 24, 2010



It was a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Guiness, Jameson, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread…Wish you could have been there.
Our supper was great! Out of this world. But I heard from a little leprechaun that in the White Earth Valley, the river ran green. And the greatest Irish feast of all was served by a couple of old-timers who truly know that the Lord invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world. I might celebrate up at White Earth next year!
This time of the year it is easy to pick out the ranchers. They kind of like to let you know how busy they are. They have to leave the pinochle game early cause they have to check heifers. They stop at the coffee shop and gulp down a quick cup of coffee cause they have a cow calving. They are counting their hay bales and figuring how many they can feed a day and not run out before they can go to grass. We’re looking at the skies and hoping there are no storms on the horizon. It’s too cold and dry to farm and too wet to calf. Life isn’t fair.
Usually, by April ranchers are a mess. They have graying whiskers, bloodshot eyes, used hay and afterbirth on their clothes. Tempers are getting a little short. And they have more patience with a newborn calf that can’t nurse, than they do with their families. I guess it’s just tradition.
You are getting down to the last of the heifers. And you haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the end of February. It’s that quality of life thing we brag about.
Know a rancher in South Dakota who’s been at it a little too long. Just before daylight the other day he locked up a cow that was just starting. His night shift had ended and he was going to take a nap. The daughter-in-law was going to keep her eye on the cow. She did. She checked the cow every twenty minutes for four hours. Nothing. No straining. No lying down. No water bag. Nothing. She went for help.
Help arrived in the form of the ranch vet. The brother-in-law. They ran the cow in the chute and he reached in. It’s dark in there. Nothing. I mean, even in the dark, if there is an eighty pound calf in there, you can find it. He reached in deeper. Nothing. Now either there had been a mistake, or the cow had delivered a calf, licked it off, and it had jumped the fence and ran away, all in twenty minutes.
They went out and looked around. After searching the calving yard, they started in another lot. Here was the newborn calf, in a calf shelter, about a quarter of a mile away. And Grandpa had locked up it’s mother.
 And Grandpa doesn’t like to make mistakes.
Nobody said a word. Later that day, they had another heifer started. It was toward evening and time for Grandpa to take over for the night shift. But everyone stuck around. Finally Grandpa said for everyone to go on home. He had delivered more calves than the rest of them had seen in their lifetimes.
The daughter-in-law’s comment was, “Yeah, but we want to stick around to make sure you don’t wean it as quick as the one you weaned this morning.”
And everyone ran for their outfit with the cussing ringing in their ears.
Had another friend this last week that lost a cow. I mean, as we say in ranch terms, teats up. Not wandered off. He looked around for her calf and grabbed it. Took it home to this old feller that helps out. And this guy fed it for two days. Taught it to drink from a bucket. Which ain’t easy to do.
On the third day, he arose… Never mind. On the third day he found another cow that hadn’t been sucked. He took her home and brought the pail calf out and it bellered and paired up.
Back to the pasture. In a couple of hours he found this starving calf off the dead cow. He took it home and put it in the pail calf’s pen. Later that evening, he stopped to check. This old feller came from the barn covered with milk and calf stuff. And swearing.
“How could that blankety blank pail calf be so stupid and wild, when just last night he was drinking from a bucket and following me around like a dog?”
The rancher never said a word, just went home with a happy smile on his face.
Gotta go. I’ve got a heifer started.