April 17, 2013



The storm was a ripper! Here we are, the middle of April, and it’s the most snow we’ve seen for a couple of years around our place. The forecast doesn’t look like it will leave anytime soon, and Shirley just let me know the forecast is for another storm in a few days! I know you shouldn’t take it out on the messenger, but…
This, as most of you are aware, is calving season. And we spend a lot of time trudging through the mud or snow, or saddling up a horse, and making a circle on mornings like this to check on the newborns during the night. Hopefully, you find them before they expire from the deadly cold and wet. Most of them will make it. Some won’t. But out of every storm, stories will surface. Some stories show a rancher’s resilience. Some show his humor.
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 20 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 80-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 20 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 its 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 there is the springtime story of Johnny and Clarence.
Clarence never lost a calf. And he was quick to let everyone in the Buckskin every year. He would have twins, or maybe even triplets. You didn’t want to brag about your calf crop first, or you wouldn’t have a chance.
His neighbor, Johnny lost a calf one night. So, Johnny decided he would dispose of this dead calf in Clarence’s pasture. When Clarence made his first circle of the morning, here lies this dead calf. It just happened it was sale day in Dickinson. Clarence sends his number one son out to find the mother to this dead calf and Clarence hightails it to the cow sale to be a day old calf to graft onto this mama cow. Well, (we’ll make up a name) Darvey spends all morning looking for this cow that wasn’t there. When Clarence gets home, he gives his son hell, and he looks for this cow that wasn’t there. And they end up bottle feeding a bum calf all summer! And Johnny kept it quiet for a lot of years.