The Gratitude of Calves

(January 16th 2007 by Carole Mercer)

In the background of my early morning mind, I can hear the dogs barking. The clock’s hands point to 5:45 am. Outside is dark and cold. Very cold. 12 degrees above zero to be exact.
I lovingly ask the dogs to stop barking. “Shut up!” I yell from the warm cozy comfort of my winter bed.
The dogs stop barking. My brain sinks back into the seductive morning sleep. The dogs start right up again. I calmly encourage them to stop barking.

“Shut up…you stupid dogs.” I rarely talk to my dogs this way, but outside is very cold and all I want to do is turn over and go back to sleep. My mind sinks back…then my brain shoots out of sleep. The doorbell is ringing.
The dogs are barking. Oh …God…someone is ringing the doorbell. The doorbell is NEVER good. When the doorbell rings (and it is ringing again as I am bolting into my bathrobe and racing down the stairs) there is always someone I don’t know at the front door. Everyone who knows me knocks on the back door or barges right into the house.
“Ring…barking dogs…” There stands a young man ready to go to construction work. He smiles as he looks at a bleary eyed old woman in her bathrobe.
“I’m sorry to wake you up, but I think your horses are out.”
My mind is still upstairs lusting for the warmth of the bed…but the brain is in gear. “Do you know anything about horses and where are they? “My brain asks.
”Oh- they are right at the crest of the hill grazing on the side of the road. I know a little about horses.” He replies.
I knew I was in good hands. A good cowboy will always say, “Oh – I know little about horses.” A person who knows nothing has to convince him and you that he is just the person you need at “o” dark thirty in the morning.
“Please go out and hold them.” Says the brain part of me. I dash upstairs and put on my winter layers as fast as I can. I grab my hat and heavy coat as I dash out the back door and run up to the barn. Man- the cold air smashes into my sleepy mind and the mind suddenly joints the brain with jolt. I throw open the shop door and by some sort of Tuesday morning miracle the four wheeler starts right up. I grab four halters and race down the freezing driveway to the road.
The young man has perfectly stopped the mares. As I walk up to them …the mares giggle and race by me.
“I’m not much help here am I? “ I say to my new young friend. He just gives me the age-old smile of a cowboy that has been had by livestock in the early mornings too.
Again I walk up to the mares. This time they stand, I slip on their halters just as the neighbor drives up… He is on his way to work and blocks the horses with his truck as I climb on the four-wheeler and, take the lead ropes from the neighbor and start home. I ask the young man his name.
“Jason” he says.
“Jason, please stop by on your way home from work today.”
(He later shows up a 5 pm. I give him a $20.00. Young cowboys dressed as construction workers can always use a $20.00. He thanks me and off he goes down the snowy driveway. I have a new friend.)
The time is now a freezing 6:20 am. I drive off with four horses in tow. Prize has managed to open a gate again. Any time I don’t put the snap on the gate, she opens it. I left off the snap last night because when the temperature is below freezing it takes me a minute or two longer to open the snap. No more. There are no shortcuts.
I feed the mares in their stalls, go out and get the newspaper. Come home, stoke the fire, start the coffee and begin my day. The early morning roundup is not part of my usual routine.
Later I run into the town of Eagle Point and mail a package. The sky is heavy with snow. Just as I pull my truck into the carport….the snow begins. In three hours, four inches of snow lies on the frozen ground. I worry about the twin calves that were born yesterday into Brian and Kristy’s cow heard wintering in my lower field. I have a vested interest in the cows. First of all, I so admire Brian and Kristy for embarking on this farming/ranching endeavor and secondly I watched the twins being born from my deck of the house.
I wander down to the field. I can find only one calf in the field. I call Brian and Kristy and leave a message on their phones. I am getting snowed upon. The frozen ground under my feet is too slick for my sleigh. No sleigh rides in this snowstorm. I watch as my near neighbor Lilly slowly drives down the drive way to her little house. Good. Lilly is home safe. The icy roads are torturous.
The dogs and I climb back up the hill to the house. Presently the snow lessens so I take my camera to record the day. As I am taking pictures, I hear Brian’s big Ford tractor chugging down the ice covered Alta Vista. I take his picture and then beg to help feed the cattle. He agrees
I climb onto the back of the tractor on the stacked hay bales. Off we chug. I am in heaven. Snow, tractor, hay bales, young Brian and someone else’s cows to worry about. I open the gate and Brian chugs through the gate. I am busy snapping pictures.
Brian and I change places. He feeds and I drive. While I am driving, I am looking for the black calf dots on the field. We don’t see them. After dropping the feed we chug around the field. Brian spots one calf. He picks it up and we haul it to the mother. The baby is really hungry and cold. I walk the field and Brian sets off on the tractor and finds the second twin on the opposite side of the field…far, far, far from the first calf… We had driven right by it… He picks it up and settles down on the back of the tractor.
“I think this calf is peeing on me. It’s warm and wet “says Brian with a huge smile. Both calves have been found in the snow and hungrily reunited with their mother who is delighted to see both babies at once. I take pictures of the memories….Brian and Kristy’s memories.
Kristy has magically appeared at the top of the hill. She has been learning more about computer spreadsheets. I tell her that I have pictures of Brian. He is getting cold from the wet experience with the calf. I ask Kristy to come in and I make her a disk of the day. Kristy is thrilled.
Little do Brian or Kristy know how much I loved this day…just once again did I get to feed cattle on my lower field and look for calves….just once again to touch the life I truly love and enjoy, but have chosen to no longer follow. That life is too much for me by myself…but this snowy day I got to help.
I stop by Lilly’s house to let her know that both calves were found. She asks if I would like to come for dinner.
“Yes. Give me a half an hour to feed my mares.” I place feed out in the field and turn the horses out. I’ll clean the stalls in the morning. I have a nice hot dinner waiting. What a perfect country day.

19 Responses to The Gratitude of Calves

  1. Mocha Mom says:

    What a lovely story, and so well-written too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. dear Carole, our Cowgirl,
    what a wonderful story with happy end, healthy horses at your home again, a new friend, two alived new-born calves in cold winter, and neighbours which are also saved at home in icy winter! …thank god that you have a nice fire place in your home :-)

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    This story makes me want to go move out and live with you. My grandpa had a cattle farm and I loved it. I have also had one of those doorbells in the middle of the night…don’t you HATE those. Our horses were grazing in the yards of the fancy neighborhood behind us. I didn’t make too many friends after that.

  4. Barb Wood says:

    A fun story to read that reminds me of similar experiences I’ve had in our own farm life.

  5. K. Graves says:

    I was freezing when you were freezing. I was driving the ATV when you were, and leading the horses back to the barn. I was helping feed calves and looking for lost twins. You had me right there. Nicely written.

  6. Russ says:

    Nice story. Life on the ranch! Horses running amuck! Some things never change. Nicely written. Well done, Carole!

  7. Regina says:

    hi Carole,
    I told you already, I love your style to write! Always nice to read and enjoy!

  8. Paula says:

    Hi Carole
    I was with you the whole way remembering my visits at the ranch. I had a mare that was a locksmith and I totally know what you are going through with Prize. Maybe it’s time to put in an electric gate at the top of the road!!! Keep writing!!!

  9. Linda says:

    Carole: I really enjoyed your story. Your talents and hard work never cease to amaze me. It is easy to be there with you in your story. It is one that all we cowboys and girls can relate. Keep up the good work! You are a very gifted person with lots of ambition and good work ethics. I truly admire you! Keep it up!! Linda

  10. Dr. Dave says:

    Much great medicine is found in life’s stories and not from pills. Keep the medicine coming, and may the library become overflowing with kids reading about life.

  11. Lynda Hamilton says:

    What a wonderful story. I felt like I was right there experiencing the day with you. Thank you for sharing it. I look forward to reading more in the future.

  12. Carole I was right there with you as I read this. My kids learned at early ages to have their feet hit the floor running when they heard “the horses are loose”. Thanks so much for sharing your real life experiences in your very interesting style of writing.


  13. Kristi Hill says:

    Hey Carole,

    I love how you recapture each moment and make one feel as if they are in your pocket.
    Whether in person or on paper you always intrigue me.

    XO Kristi

  14. From start to finish I gravite to the readings..craving anticipation. Compels me forward and has me visulizing the happenstance with her descriptions. I listened with the ear of my heart..felt the snowflakes as well as hunting for the lost twin… as my Auntey Carole has a Masters in this field above and beyond her actual diploma ones. So for her to write about her passions and experiences is not only a gift coming from a true Master but a “Blessing”. It was Auntey Carole’s Christmas card that said…”Jesus was born in the Stable.”

  15. Carole your talents continue to unravel. I too could picture you running down the steps in our bathrobe right to the snowflakes falling while driving the tractor. I must take a drive sometime and visit your place. It sounds heavenly.

  16. Jeff Wilding says:

    Boy that brought back memories! Very well done. Having been at the ranch, I envisioned the whole scenario playing out in my mind as I read the story. I hope to hear more because I know there is a very deep well of experiences that you can draw from to enlighten us all with. Thank you for sharing this one!

  17. Sherri Boatright says:

    Hi Carole,
    Not only do you have an incredible talent for training and driving horses, you are a magnificent writer. Great story. I was hanging on every word. Please keep me in the loop on all the stories you write, as I so enjoy reading them. You should really consider publishing your “Europe story.”
    p.s. – we still brag about you often and cherish the memories at your ranch; sure wish we lived closer to each other.
    Happy Trails,
    Sherri Boatright

  18. Sherri Boatright says:

    p.s.s. – I cherish the chest you gave me that you received at your high school graduation. I call it my treasure chest. I keep very “special” things in it and now I’m going to keep copies of your stories in it as well.

  19. Leah Young says:

    Hi there Carole!Great story!Can’t wait too read more of your stuff!My mare Misty learned to open her paddock gate too!Had to get a more sophisticated one.Gotta love the ones that keeps us on our toes!Your place sounds like a lot of fun.It would be cool to go riding some time.I wish I could bring my mare,but she is nervous around cattle.



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