Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fair Spring, where art thou?

Just 10 short days ago, on March 21st, it was warm enough for us to have a picnic at the park.

Kaden Nate, Dan, Amelia, Mack (in the stroller), Lily, Kamille Nate, Becca Nate

Almost all of the snow had melted off and the ground was dry enough to sit on. The girls played without jackets and their boots mostly stayed dry. Just a couple days earlier we'd gone to the park and Lily got soaked up to her armpits jumping in all the puddles. I was so mad I didn't have my camera with me!

Mack got by with a light jacket and had a great time riding in the stroller.

Then five days later, this was the view out our front door window:

That's Wyoming for ya! When you live at 6200 feet, real Spring doesn't come until May.

It is the height of calving season right now and this weather is a rough place to make an entry into the world. For ranchers with several hundred head of cattle, the only place for the heifers to give birth is out in the elements. Most nights are below freezing and Sunday night was especially cold. On Monday morning, Dan and Brian went out to the ranch on the west side road to help rescue calves born in the night, bring them into the warming shed and try to save their lives.

Is this not the cutest thing?

I couldn't have composed this better if I'd set it up myself! When I saw this little darling all curled up under the hay, I thought of something my brother-in-law Zen's dad, Ron, (a rancher up in Star Valley) once said. "There's nothing cuter than a newborn calf. You just want to kiss 'em right on the mouth!"

The calves were in an area enclosed with hay bales and covered with a tarp roof. It's amazing how much warmer it was in there out of the wind, even without any heat source. When we first got there Amelia skipped around petting them all. I was thrilled that we could get right up next to them, something you could never do out at pasture where their mothers are.

We went around putting hay over the babies who were shivering. Amelia got more timid once one of the calves moo'd at her.

We went back later in the afternoon after Lily got home from school. When she arrived, I asked her if she wanted to go out to the west side to see the calves and she was like, "Nah." Some days she's just wussy about going out in the cold. I said, "You don't want to see the baby calves that you can pet and hold in your lap??" Her eyes lit up and she said, "Ooh, yeah, yeah!!!"

Lily and Kamille rode with their dads and I followed a few minutes later with the little ones. When we got there, Brian's dad Keith was preparing a bottle for one of the calves while Dan and Brian were out rounding up the mothers to bring them into the corral. When a calf is in trouble, it's easiest to just load the calf into a truck and bring them to the warming shed where they can warm up and get a bottle of evaporated milk and water into their bellies, while the harder work of rounding up the mothers is done from horseback. Once the mothers are brought into the corral, the babies are usually taken out to nurse on their mothers.

I love this picture of Keith. To me, it speaks of the love that ranchers have for their animals. They're out there, in the freezing weather, rescuing calves and helping them survive until their mothers can take care of them. Makes me think of my Grandad Cox. He was retired from ranching by the time I came along, so I never got to see him in action. I can picture him doing this exact thing (minus the BlueTooth headset).

Lily and Kamille had a great time petting and snuggling with the calves to keep them warm.

By the time we got there in the afternoon, there were only two calves left in the warming shed and they were really big ones. Lily kept saying, "You said I could hold one on my lap!" It weighed much more than she did, so she had to settle for a tight snuggle.

Most of the calves were so exhausted from birth and the cold that they would just lay there and let you love on them and warm them up. Some of them stumbled around, kind of nervous, but if you would stand next to them and let them lean on you, they'd let you rub them and warm them up. Their fur was so soft!

If not for two whiny babies I could have spent all day out there rubbing and snuggling those baby calves. Must be the mother in me.

Here's hoping for warmer weather ASAP!


Lois Ann said...

I'll have to take a look and see if Gram had any photos of Grandad and his animals. I do remember one calf that he brought into the kitchen by the old coal stove to get warmed up. You are so right, their fur is soooo soft.

Lois Ann said...

And more snow this morning! I was just listening to the western radio station for the weather report and they said the "gate was closed to Wyoming" due to blowing snow, so hunker down by your wonderful wood stove. I don't expect any apricots at all this year, but I am still glad that little tree got its "hair cut".

Anonymous said...

Test drive

Paddy/Nana said...


Becky in Wyo said...

Yep, that warm front a few weeks ago was just a Nasty Tease.

Lori Gerten said...

How wonderful to have the girls experience that! Those calves are so flaming cute!

Apis Melliflora said...

This is a beautiful post! The calves are so perfectly formed. The pictures are so thoughtfully composed. And when I reached the last picture with you in it, I thought, Oh my goodness, she looks as fresh and young as new spring crocus! How does she do it? My conclusion: I need to go pet me some calves!

Dustan and Micayla said...

How fun!! That has got to be one of the coolest things about living in a smaller town. What a simple but amazing thing to be able to do for the day! Love it!!