Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tim gets a Mom

It’s been terribly wet lately, and owning cattle not a career choice for any self-respecting man or woman. My leather gloves got soaked the other morning, and after a couple of days drying by the wood stove, they’re so stiff I can’t stand the thought of putting my hands back inside.

The corrals are soupy and the feedground sketchy. We sneak around with the feed trucks, avoid getting stuck for the most part, and give thanks to the sandy soil of this ranch.

We moved the calvy heifers to the field right in front of our house. My favorite part of our home is the picture windows in the living area - especially so when cattle or horses grace the scene.

We’ve been feeding Tim a bottle morning and night for almost a month. He was premature, one of a set of triplets. He was the only one that lived, and his mother died as well. I told Mark he was a “going concern,” as he clearly wanted to live. He sucked hard on the bottle we prepared and butted us for more as we worked in the barn. We had planned on grafting Tim on a mom that had lost her calf, but the opportunity didn’t arrive for several weeks. Then a big black cow lost a calf to pneumonia, or so Mark thought. Jesse skinned the dead calf and laid the skin over Tim to fool the cow into thinking it was her own baby by the familiar smell. This ruse usually works like a charm; I’ve never seen it fail - until Tim. The cow didn’t seem to have much milk or much interest in a reincarnated baby. She was irritated with our efforts and never took to Tim as planned. We began to wonder if she hadn’t fed the first calf either, which would of course, have led to an early death. Finally Mark told Jesse to turn her out. “She can work for Mcdonalds,” he said.

Then yesterday a calf was born breech and died. His mother licked and licked him, like a good mother should, but to no avail. Mark loaded the dead baby on his 4-wheeler and brought it to the barn. Jesse skinned the calf and again tied the skin on Tim. This time the subterfuge was successful. The mother cow immediately hummed to Tim - that motherly coo that is such a welcome sound to a cowman – and accepted him to her udder. Mark said, as he often does when the bonding is complete, “she is in love.” 

I turned the pair out of the barn this morning. Oh, what a happy couple! 

(tiny) Tim and his new Mama

Other photos from the herd:
Bonding time

It doesn't take them long to figure out what straw is for


  1. Been there, done that. Not only a good piece of writing, but wonderful pictures. Enjoyed it!

  2. Good (and so tactile) metaphor with the gloves.
    Great, (I think the "or so mark thought" could be excluded. It's a little confusing until you read the whole rest of the paragraph....)

    I like the text under the pictures, except is the first one the mama - that wasn't really a mama? Is the second pic the one that loved him?

    All in all it is sweet, comfortingly simple, and again heartfelt. Humor comes smilingly out of the reality of the moment, and depth out of seemingly surface exercises; and so illustration of heart comes forth as it naturally should.