February 2009
On the Edge of Common Sense

Ain't Ranchin' Fun!

Well, it’s calvin’ season across the broad expanse of Bovamerica. Some, below the Little Ear Parallel, began a few weeks ago and others, north of Calgary, are still waiting for their pipes to thaw. I’ve always enjoyed calving season. It’s the equivalent of riding a combine across a sea of ripe wheat to a farmer or the quarterback calling his first play in the big playoff game.

As a columnist, I particularly enjoy calving season because it is a regular renewal of stories that keep me believing I cannot make up stuff worse, goofier or more frightening than what really happens!

Let me introduce you to Irvin. Good cowman in central Idaho. His heifer calving set-up was typical. A big lot with yard light, a small covered calving shed, a set of panels and stanchion to restrain the beast, a couple overnight ‘jugs’ and a bigger adjoining pasture to turn out the pairs. Irvin and his wife had sacrificed to afford their cow herd and it was a great source of pride to them. They love their way of life.

Irvin took his turn at the midnight heifer check. #132 had broken her water bag two hours ago. He pulled on his rubber boots since the lot was thawing and getting sloppy near the shed. He switched on the yard light and started through the heifers.

Back in the corner was #132. She was pushing but still nothing showed. Better bring her in and have a look, he decided. #132 roused but was reluctant to leave her spot. Irvin shooshed, waved and hollered as he sloshed around in the sticky mud trying to drive her into the shed. In one quick move, he dove to the right and the mud sucked off his left boot! She turned back! He dove to his left to cut her off and left his right boot in the mud!

Losing his patience, he grabbed his 16-foot bullwhip he kept coiled on the fence. He did a thrust and parry, faking out #132, then as his piece d’resistance to drive her under the shed, he reared back with his whip, caught the electric line, followed through with the cast, jerking himself out of his socks and pulling the line down! Which left him on his back, in the dark, his bare feet sticking up like two giant Tootsie Roll pops.

When his wife heard him crashing around in the bathroom, she went to check. He was squatted over the toilet, his coverall legs rolled up and both his bare feet in the water. He was scrubbing away at the muck with a wooden-handled bucket brush.

He looked up at her smiling and said, "Ain’t ranchin’ fun, Honey? Ain’t ranchin’ fun!"

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.