We had a few more of the first calf heifers give birth today. This time it was Pray, Cuddle and Value. This post arises from the cow named Pray and how she shaped my day today.
First a bit about the name. Although I am a minister and Russell is a bible school graduate, we don’t prioritize time to pray together. We never have. We have tried at times, but it hasn’t stuck. Still we put the word “pray” in our list of words that reflect strength for our marriage. The bigger story is that prayer is a part of our life. On any given day either we do it silently and individually and/or we struggle with it and we talk about that struggle (more me than Russell) and we do it, out loud, gathered together, regularly and with heart, at the meal table. This seems to work for us. The truth is I am a minister and I have struggled for my whole adult faith life with prayer. Too many unanswered prayers is the crux of the problem for me and too much injustice for some in this world. This could get super serious and some day maybe it will be good to talk about all this, but for today, just know that we have a Heifer named Pray because we know that prayer is about relationship with God and we know we need that to carry out our lives and our marriage with wholehearted strength and purpose.
So what happened today? Pray had her calf at the far corner of the heifer pasture, in short grass with no bedding near. Russ found her licking off her calf. However by the time his heifer check was done it seemed as though Pray had abandoned her calf. What the heck?!?!? Surprisingly despite a cold early morning and neglect it was not too bad off. Russ got some hay from a nearby feeder, loaded it onto the hood of the jeep and took it over and made a bit of wind shelter/bedding with a good clump of it. Then his morning had challenges and he never got back to check the status of the calf and its relationship with its Mom. He called at 11:30, would I go and have a tour of the heifers and see what was up? Yes. I found that calf right where he told me he had first seen it. Pray was nowhere in sight.
As I checked the rest of the herd I kept a special eye out for Pray. I found her mingling in the midst of a whole group who were grazing and hanging out like teenagers at recess. She looked unconcerned. I said to her, with a sense of double entendre “Pray I expected more of you.” Unsurprisingly this rebuke did not phase her one bit.
After my tour I called Russ and reported in. He asked if I would make a bottle and return to the calf he would dub “little prayer”. I was a bit ticked by this, lunch would be late and I would get nothing else done for the morning, but of course I wasn’t going to say no. When I returned with the bottle I was fortunate to be able to get milk into her, with only a little resistance.
I had never fed a calf a bottle on the open range before, so I could chalk that up as a first. Ideally Pray would have caught wind that I was meddling with her baby and come stampeding over with motherly love flooding her, but nothing like that happened. What did happen is that after only about 1/8th of a bottle Little Prayer responded to the nourishment and worked at getting up. I witnessed her first faltering steps.
Once up she got tooling around. Her instincts were amazing. She nuzzled up to our Expedition as if it was her Mama. She nuzzled into me, I was sitting on the ground on my knees and my armpit seemed to her like something she should know about. From that vantage point I got more of that bottle into her. It was fun. Still no Pray in sight. I went home and lunch was served only 15 minutes late.
After lunch I was totally enjoying watching a youtube video about how to start seedling plants when Russ called. He needed my help. He was trying to sort out the issue with Pray. I won’t try and explain all the stages of this because honestly I am not totally clear on everything myself. What I do know best I understand after the fact, the initial hurried phone calls did little for me. When Russ called me he was on foot, playing a game with cow and calf which was a combination of tag and follow the leader. He was trying to get them together. I came along just about the time Pray had a change of heart and decided she owned that calf. She did not have a gentle touch. She bellered and danced around that calf and pushed at it, I feared she would hurt it. Russ sat in the jeep with me as this unfolded. I saw raw power in that Mama and it scared me. Pray definitely seemed to be scaring Little Prayer too. Meanwhile, the calf had maybe bonded with Russell and I. In Russell’s words, “I put her to bed for the first time and you fed her for the first time, she feels best with us.” It seemed to be the case.
In the dance around the pasture that took place over about 45 minutes, the calf went through the fence to the neighboring pasture 4 times working to escape its overwrought Mother. As Russ went through too, working to get it back in the proper pasture he said, “if that cow comes for me you drive through the fence and get me.” “Like…. drive throououough the fence Russell?” Yes, right through it was the prescription for salvation. That was the first of four times this happened at three difference fence lines and by the fourth I was definitely overwrought too. It was only in the post game analysis that I really understood that for the most part the calf was the one that Russ was trying to disappear from, it just wanted Russ. The cow seemed to mean no harm to him. But I didn’t know that so my stress levels were just crazy by the time I got the phone call with these words, “turn around and go hide behind that hill!” As I got in place the last I saw of Russ he was running through this rounded and somewhat deep large indent in the prairie, with dirt hills on the north side. I was hiding in the jeep behind those hills, Russ appeared, jumped in with me and said “back up, just back up”. He knew the game of tag and follow the leader had become hide and seek with the calf, I didn’t. When we stopped the jeep and watched from a distance there was a bit of hope in the air. I wasn’t doing so well though. I let myself acknowledge that I have post traumatic shock after the year of so many things going wrong and quite simply if Russ got hurt I would be wrecked. So after Russ said, “back up, just back up” and we had come to a stop, I said, “Russ, I am not doing so good,” not entirely holding back my tears. Russ offered to take me back to my truck, I could go home. I didn’t want to abandon him though. Mercifully that was when it seemed like we could let these two figure it out. We had drawn them out to the centre of the pasture, away from fence lines, maybe with some time for the brain to make some connections both of them would realize that they need each other.
I found it ironic that all this happened with our cow named Pray, because in the midst of all these shenanigans my best possibility for help was God. The thing is after seeing some of the big problems in my life not fixed by prayer I come to moments like this so confused, so needful but so confused. What I am working from right now is that prayer is about relationship with God, investing myself in my friendship with God, letting God in and drawing the strength that my friend has to share with me, its not about telling God what to do, but sharing myself. So observing the action at the third fence line, watching the dance with baited breath, I just repeated over and over again what I wanted, letting my friend know what my end goal was, what the need of my heart was, but trying not to be bossy about how it would happen. I want my husband to be safe. I want my animals to be safe. After repeating that several times I got a bit practical. If this circus was going to end it would be because that cow settled into her maternal identity and allowed her calf to feel safe. So I told God how I wanted that for her. This point in my prayer/conversation is about the time I got the call to go hide behind the hill. And then it seemed, that at least for then, things were moving in the right direction. I was so thankful. Sitting here now, its 5:45pm and I have no idea what has happened since. Perhaps no news is good news.
I didn’t mean for this to be so long. Thanks for sticking it out with me. Lets hope the rest of the heifers offer a slightly more straight forward experience. You probably don’t want to read this kind of a exposé arising from the names of some of the heifers yet to calve🙄😬😉.