Beef Below the Blue Ridge

Chapter 1

A Typical Day on the Farm

1/13/21

It’s been kind of quiet here on the farm. I don’t really have a funny story, but I thought it might be fun to just tell you what a typical day looks like here.

First of all, there really isn’t a typical day. : )

But I’m going to tell you about this past Friday, because we had a calf born and that’s always fun.

Friday morning when I woke up, our internet wasn’t working.

Something that is maybe a little relative to this story is that we have satellite internet and the receiver for it is at the top, the very top, of the tree in our front yard.

The guys who fix it don’t come in to work until nine, so Watson and the girls fed the cows, Julia made pancakes, and I worked on finishing up Me and the Cute Catastrophe.

We’ve had a cow with a hurt foot since before Thanksgiving. The vet’s been here to see her twice, and we’ve been giving her medicine, but her foot just isn’t getting better.

She happens to be my middle daughter’s favorite cow, and I say she’s just enjoying being in the small pasture beside our house and being spoiled to death and she’s just pretending to have a hurt foot. : )

Anyway, we also have a horse who slipped on some ice a few weeks ago and cut her knee, and that had gotten infected.

We also have a calf, Cola, that I really need to tell you about sometime, who basically had what amounted to a massive hernia and needed an in-the-field operation.

So, the vet was supposed to come at nine, too, and at five after, I saw her truck come down the lane from where I sat by the window at my desk.

Now, usually, when I know my husband is busy, I try not to bother him, but I wanted to make sure the internet got fixed, because otherwise, we’d be without it all weekend, and while I can write without it, I need it for most of the other things I do. : )

So, I sent him a text: Did you call about the internet, or do you want me to?

Him:

Me: (tapping my fingers impatiently)

Me: (still tapping)

Me: (checking my phone to see that ten seconds have crawled by and he STILL hasn’t answered me…I’m kidding, mostly.)

Him: I sent an email.

I don’t get angry or upset that often, and I usually have a lot of patience.

But I’m gonna admit right here that there are two things I am embarrassed about how fast my temper goes from zero to outer space.

One is when the sweeper doesn’t work.

I know. SO dumb, isn’t it?

I’ve never asked my children, but I’d say that if any of them have any memories of their mother flipping out, that memory would maybe involve the sweeper being thrown out of a window or off our porch or possibly me lifting it over my head and pounding it on the ground, maybe we used it for target practice…I really can’t remember. 😁

I have a theory as to why the sweeper not working makes me so irritated—I hate to clean. (Man, this is like Jessie Gussman confession day.) So I avoid doing it until I can’t stand the dirt any longer. (In my house, with how we’re in and out constantly and how we homeschool and how we have so many dogs I’m embarrassed to tell you a number, that’s about three hours.)

So, once I’ve reached the point where I’m actually cleaning, my equilibrium goes into a tailspin if I can’t GET THE DIRT OUT OF MY HOUSE THIS SECOND. (Give me a minute to take a couple deep breaths…)

Okay. So. If I’m at that point and the sweeper goes kaput… Yeah. My adult boys are pretty tough, but I think, if asked, they would say something like: Mom is scary when the sweeper doesn’t work. : )

And I’m sure you’ve guessed, but the second thing that causes me to have a wee bit of a temper control issue is when the internet doesn’t work. 😁

So, anyway, on Friday I was doing okay, I had a deadline, and I was working pretty hard toward it. Still, I kept an eye on the driveway for the repairmen.

The vet looked at the cow (she couldn’t find anything wrong with it; her name is Bubble Butt, by the way—the cow, not the vet) and gave the horse a shot, leaving some pills for it, and did an operation on Cola, leaving some medicine for her.

After a couple hours, the vet left, the girls went to the barn to start their school (yes, they made themselves a “schoolroom” in the barn, and yes, I absolutely allow them to put school off to follow the vet around—there are several vets in that practice, and I can just imagine they argue among themselves over who has to come out to our place, since they know there are going to be at least four or five people following them around wherever they go while they’re here). I would have been out there, too, if I didn’t have that book to finish. You can be thankful I wasn’t, or you’d probably be reading all the gory details about Cola’s hernia operation. Julia said the smell was pretty overpowering, so you can all thank me later. : ) And then Watson came into the house to tell me how everything went.

I think I was very nice to him while he was talking, but maybe he heard my back teeth grinding together or maybe he could just read my mind, because he stopped in the middle of describing how the vet had placed a tube in Cola’s intestine that was hanging out her backside and placed a band around the part that was infected and said to me, “Did you call about the internet?”

Me: (I’m trying to smile, but I think it’s a scary smile.) No. You sent an email?

Him: I think I’ll run downstairs and give them a call.

Me: (I’m thinking about breathing and smiling, and I am most definitely NOT thinking about throwing anything out of any windows. Honest.) Oh, that’s great, hon. Thanks.

So Watson goes downstairs, and I get up and walk around, not because I’m irritated, but because when you’re sitting for long periods of time you’re supposed to get up and move every three to five minutes anyway, right?

So, I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s a lot of open area in our house, and when I walk to the restroom, I can hear my husband speaking on the phone.

Watson: What do you mean you can’t find a tree climber?…Monday? That’s the earliest?…So, you know what’s wrong with it…Okay, do you have the replacement receiver?…I know. That’s fine…No. Just bring it out and all the parts with it. I’ll climb the dang tree.

Me: 😲

Me: (Walking back over to my desk, bending down, and twisting my head to see to the top of the tree, trying to estimate how tall it is…100 feet?)

Me: (Picturing Watson in an hour: 🤕)

Okay, so I know most of you reading this are huge romantics and you are all swooning right now thinking, Watson loves her so much he’s willing to climb a very tall tree and risk his life just to fix her internet.

I’m just gonna say, you all thought I was joking above about the sweeper and target practice and all that…kinda kidding. I do have to admit I maybe get a little grumpy when the internet doesn’t work, I guess, and Watson just wanted a weekend of peace and quiet, whether that was in the hospital or out of it.

I’m going to spoil this story a bit right now and say Watson actually did make it halfway up the tree.

I could hear the repair guys through the window encouraging, um, making fun of him (I had to laugh when one of them said, “Can’t you go any faster?” I’m serious—he actually said that, but, just a guess, Watson was probably making fun of them for getting paid to NOT climb the tree), but they must have gotten a little bored and started wandering around the yard.

They happened to wander over and notice that there was a hole worn through the wire where it went under our porch.

So, they cut out the bad spot and spliced a new wire, and bam, my internet was back on, and Watson figured it was safe to come down out of the tree. LOL.

Before we get back to work, Watson tells me that we have a cow in labor (77), and we make a few (nonmonetary) bets on whether she will have a bull or heifer (we’ve had eight bulls in a row, all since Thanksgiving). He goes back to digging out stumps, and we have a couple of calm hours.

I think it was around five when I get a text from Watson: I think 77 might be having trouble. Go check her.

Probably your house is the same as mine—we all have our little jobs that we do. At our house, Watson climbs the trees and I deliver the babies. (Yes, I know. I have the best job. But I empty the trash and scrub the toilets once a year, too, so there is that.)

So, I grab Julia (who is still completely terrified of cows, although not as much as she is of spiders) who really wants to see a calf be born.

I should have put a coat on, but Watson has a tendency to worry, and I’m pretty sure everything is fine and this won’t take long. I’m wearing open-toed sandals (with socks, and yes, I know, that makes me old) and a sweatshirt and jeans.

Watson is actually in the field above us in the tractor, feeding.

I can see 77 about fifty yards up from the creek in the bottom pasture. I park about 100 yards away to keep from scaring her. Our (man-eating) dog, Ethyl, had jumped in the back of the Gator when we left the house, but she listens pretty well and I tell her to stay while Julia and I walk along the edge of the creek until we’re just below 77.

As we walk, I’m watching her. The amniotic sac has broken, and I can see one foot out, then as we get closer, two. Perfect.

As soon as I see a nose, I’ll know it’s almost certain she won’t need help.

Now, at that part of the creek, the bank is about six feet high and is a sheer drop directly down to the water. We’ve had a lot of rain around here, and while the creek isn’t flooding, it’s a good four or eight inches deep.

We stop directly down from 77, and as these things sometimes go, we’re standing beside the creek at the only spot where the bank slightly slopes.

Anyway, Julia and I stand there, quiet and watching as 77 gives us a hard look (which scares Julia), then she paces a bit, and after a few minutes, she lies down and pushes.

I see a nose, which makes me very happy, and I know it’s not going to be long before we have a new little one on the ground.

Except…77 bawls and struggles to her feet. She bawls again and shakes her head.

I look around and see Rocker and Diesel (two of our dogs) have followed us down and are trotting toward 77 right now.

This is not good. Once the head’s out, things need to happen pretty quickly.

I’ve actually seen an instance where the cow who was giving birth got upset after the head was out, got up…it wasn’t a good thing, and that calf didn’t make it.

Anyway, my easy confidence of a couple minutes ago is completely gone, and I’m pretty sure the life of the calf depends on us getting rid of the dogs.

I called them to us as soon as I saw them, and they’ve come. Julia’s holding one and me the other. We’ve made them sit, and we are not moving a muscle, but 77 is not appeased. She’s pacing, shaking her head, and half acting like she wants to charge us.

It’s imperative that she has that baby, like, NOW.

At this point, my sweatshirt vibrates.

It’s Watson calling me. He’s stopped the tractor and is, apparently, watching from the upper field.

Me: (whispering) Hello?

Watson: She needs to have that calf now.

Me: I know.

Watson: The dogs are bothering her.

Me: I know…I don’t know what to do about it.

I look around. The way the creek bends, we’d be moving slightly toward 77 if we try to take them either way along the bank.

I look behind me. There’s JUST enough slope to the bank that we can probably make it down without falling.

I shove my phone in my back pocket and try to push Rocker over the bank.

Ha. He’s a Great Pyrenees. I do outweigh him but not by much. : )

So, yeah, I lead by example and truck over the bank. Since I’m holding onto his collar and I will die before I let go, Rocker follows me over.

As I’m doing this, Julia screams in a whisper, “MOM! WHAT ARE YOU DOING???” Then she sighs, resigned and probably wishing God had given her a mother who was even just slightly not crazy, and trucks over after me.

Diesel is somewhat of an easier sell than Rocker because he’s part Newfoundland, and those dogs were actually bred to rescue people out of the ocean who were shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland, which is a good bit colder than Virginia, although you’d have had a real hard time convincing my feet of that fact considering their current status resting on the bottom of Naked Creek.

At least I wasn’t worried about snakes [nor alligators, I might add, for the sake of a certain Southerner who claims to have waterskied in alligator-infested waters. Whether or not that was a cognizant decision, I’m not sure. : ) ]

Anyway, no alligators, no snakes, and no feeling in my feet.

Julia was wearing boots, at least.

So, I pull my phone back out of my pocket (and keep a firm hold on Rocker, whose ancestors did NOT rescue people out of freezing water), but my husband has hung up on me.

Seriously.

So, I’m cooling my heels (literally, along with my toes and ankles), but I really want to know what’s going on.

I talk Julia into holding both dogs. It takes her a little while to grab Rocker’s collar because she’s shivering, but she gets him and I put my toes on a little mud ledge that’s about eighteen inches above the water.

“Mother. What are you doing?” Julia asks. [And at this point, she’d like to know if any of you would like to adopt her? You don’t need to reply to this email, you can just come pick her up. I’m pretty sure she’ll go with anyone. : ) ]

The ledge is the perfect height, and I’m able to get my eyes just above ground level.

77 has laid back down and is pushing.

This makes me very happy.

It does not, however, make me warm. Just saying. : )

The ledge I’m standing on is only big enough for about four toes, so I look down at Julia and whisper, “Do you want to trade me places?” I know she really wanted to see this calf be born.

“No. Just tell her to hurry.”

I think about giving her my lecture about God’s timing being perfect, but…I don’t. : )

77 pushes the front shoulders out, and I know the rest of the calf will slip out if she stands up, so I climb up the bank.

Julia is yelling at me in a whisper again, but I stand up, turn around, and put a hand out. She looks around. “What about the dogs?”

“The only place they can get up is right here, and we won’t let them.”

She slaps her hand in mine, and I pull her up.

We turn and look at the calf. I need movement. Any kind of movement. An ear. A foot. An eyelash. Anything.

Julia: It’s not moving.

Me: (I’m holding my breath, silently begging the little one to move.)

My phone buzzes in my pocket. And I ignore it. Seriously, the dude hung up on me. Kidding. I pull it out of my pocket.

Watson texts me: Is it alive?

I’m still hoping. I know it wasn’t good for 77 to be interrupted and for this to be taking so long.

77 pushes again, and just as she relaxes, a front leg twitches and the head moves.

Julia: IT’S ALIVE!

I text Watson: Yes! it’s moving.

77 pushes once more, and the little black body slips completely out. Goodness, if that’s not about the most beautiful thing in the world, I don’t know what is.

Julia declares it’s a heifer based on how the head looks. There really is a slight difference in head shape between newborn bulls and heifers, and Julia is really good at seeing it. She’s right about this one and names her Minnie.

Thanks so much for spending some time with me today. : )