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March 17, 2014
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Amanda Radke: Cowgirl's Perspective 3-15-14

Being 25 weeks pregnant has its advantages during calving season. My husband is more inclined to carry things for me. I don’t have to lift heavy calves or get too brave around an ornery cow. I’m expected to walk gingerly on the ice, and there’s always a hand ready to help me climb over a slippery gate.

My husband is a nervous first-time father, fretting over everything from whether I’m eating right, to if I’m getting enough sleep, to warning me to take it easy, rest, bundle up when I’m outside and take care of myself and the baby.

Man, I could get used to all that pampering!

However, with all of that pampering and advice to slow down, being well into my second trimester didn’t excuse me from pulling an all-night’er recently.

It was 2:30 in the morning when I heard a holler down the hallway. Sound asleep in my bedroom, my husband called, “Mandyyyyyy ... come quick; I need you.”

Then I heard an audible thud.

I rushed out of our bedroom and found my husband in the bathroom leaning over the bathtub.

“Hurry and grab the blow-dryer. This calf is pretty cold,” he told me.

I grabbed my blow-dryer and got to work, carefully running the warm air over the cold calf. Its ears crispy and its body covered in a white coating of ice, the little thing had been born on one of the coldest nights of the ear. It was 20 below and the wind was blowing. The baby heifer had been born in the barn, and when Tyler found her, she was running around the barn and trying to suck, but we knew the cold weather could be deadly on a night like this.

We rubbed towels over the heifer and slowly warmed her back up. We made the executive decision to keep her in the house until the sun came up and made plans to go back to sleep. One more check in the barn quickly changed that plan.

I heard the chirp of my cell phone as I climbed back into bed.

“H’lo?” I asked groggily.

“Mandyyyyy, I need your help again. We’ve got two more on the way,” my husband hurriedly announced before hanging up the phone.

I quickly bundled up, checked the baby calf one more time and I rushed out the door.

The cold air blasted my face, and I was instantly awake and alert. Waddling my pregnant self as fast I could out to the barn was made even more challenging with my too-big coveralls and the slippery ice, but I managed. Once I arrived, I found my husband putting chains on a calf that would need a little help.

“Mandy, grab that puller for me,” he instructed.

I grabbed the heavy puller and brought it over. We worked together with a few quick tugs to extract the bull calf. The mama cow was protective and gave a warning moo.

“You better get out of here, Mandy,” my worried husband announced.

“But what about the calf?”

I didn’t need to worry, however, as my husband hoisted the calf on his shoulders and crawled over fences to hurry and get the calf to the house. It was way too cold to even try to get him up and going on a night like this.

“Stay here and keep an eye on the next cow calving,” he called as he ran with the calf.

So, I sat. It seemed like hours passed as we put out one fire after another. We were tired, yet running on an adrenaline rush. We were sore from all of the climbing and lifting and tending to calves that night, yet I was peaceful as I felt my own baby kick in my stomach. We didn’t go to bed until 36 hours later; I guess that cold front really inspired some cows to calve that night.

The circle of life may not always be pretty, particularly if you calve in the winter as we do. But, it’s a family affair, and we love every minute of it. As I watch these first-calf heifers calve, I must admit I feel a little anxiety about June when it’s my turn. But if my husband is half as good of a daddy as he is a rancher, I know I will have a good teammate by my side in the delivery room. ❖

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