Saturday, December 10, 2016

Keeping Vigil

The snow keeps coming – and there’s more in the forecast. It’s Christmasy; so much so that even Scrooges like me are feeling the vibe.

We got the cows home from the mountains, but not before we had a bit of excitement when my brother’s cattle mixed with ours on the trail home. Rich stopped his herd for the night with only a cattleguard between them and us. He was afraid that the pressure of the herd would crowd an animal into the guard, a series of metal slats over a wide gap in the road, so finally let them through the gate. When he got home he called Mark. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” Mark could guess what he would say next. “The good news is nothing got in the cattleguard; the bad news is we’re mixed!”

No worries. Mark said he would have done the same thing. It meant extra work on horseback letting their black cows walk by our mostly red and white cows, but they all got to their home fields in fine order. The last sort was on a bitter morning with a dusting of snow on the cattle’s backs. It was a good photo op until my I-phone powered off because of the cold.

We put all the cows through the chute yesterday for processing. To “process” a cow means we have the local veterinarian check to see that she’s pregnant, then we give her an annual vaccination and a dose of insecticide. Mark checks teeth and the general health of the oldest cows to see if they’ll stay in the herd or be sorted off to sell. It’s like taking year-end inventory. We’re making a list and checking it twice.

There's more going on in the background than you can tell from my photos, however. As we drive through ranch headquarters, we pass by the modest white home that houses our ranch matriarch with renewed concern. Mark’s grandma, at 97, who has enjoyed good health up until a couple of weeks ago, is declining. She would really prefer to move on, find her husband, and do some dancing. He passed away in 2000 after 62 years together. She wonders why he's left her alone for so long.

So we’re keeping vigil over Grandma. "Vigil" is a word that sounds just like its meaning. It is defined as “a period of time when a person or group stays in a place and quietly waits, to keep awake when sleep is customary.” Very apropos for this wintery December when we watch and worry with a gamut of emotions – gratitude, awe, sadness, joy - surrounding this petite dynamo who, when the dancing finally begins, will leave a big hole in the human side of this ranch.  

my brother Rich holding herd


the processing crew


  1. Give Grandma Bonnie a big, wholesome hug from us. We've cherished her love, friendship and wisdom and pray for God's blessings on her and all who love her.

  2. Great piece as usual. We have Bonnie in our daily thoughts and prayers. She is an amazing woman and we love her dearly.