The worst day |

The worst day

Audrey Powles

            Ranch life teaches kids more about life and death than any other way of living. My young children get to witness the cycle of life on a yearly basis. Right now we are in the middle of a busy calving season. New life shows up everyday. The newborn calves taking their first breath of life is something so refreshing that it cannot be put into words. Seeing new life will bring a smile to your face every time. These are the best days of my job, tagging calves, teaching my children about cows and how they care for their new calf, and watching calves buck and play when the sunshine warms them up. If everyday during calving season were perfect, no cows would try to eat your lunch as you tagged their calf, coyotes would become vegetarians, the pulling chute would never be needed and you would never need to graft a calf onto a cow because she lost her own.

            While the good days will always outweigh the bad, there are the bad days. The days when the storm clouds roll and the cold north wind chills calves to the bone. The days when the mother cow that is supposed to love and adore her baby chooses to beat and kick it for no reason at all, or you have to put a calf down because you know that it is the only merciful thing to do because it was born with a deformity that wont allow it to survive are among the worst days in the world. Top that off with trying to explain to your children why that cow was beating her calf, or why you had to put a calf to sleep and it will rip your heart out as a parent. However it is these hard days that make us better as cattlemen, and as parents. Smooth seas never made for a skilled sailor, and calving out the perfect set of cows never made a good cowboy.

            If there is one thing in this world that makes my blood boil, it is creatures that beat up on innocent children, whether they are of the bovine or human variety. With cows they simply get a one way trip to the sale barn where they can become happy meals, a fate that should await those that harm children but I suppose that’s a story for another time. As a father it is very difficult to explain to a young child why a cow would beat up on her calf. They don’t understand, and frankly neither does dad sometimes.

            While abusive cows make my blood boil, having to put down an animal for health reasons will leave you with a lump in your throat and a pit in your stomach. I don’t care how many times you have to do it, the chore never gets any easier and it is by far the worst day on the job. It is hard to explain to children why not every calf can survive. Thankfully when the master above created mothers, he made them with the ability to love others and we can put a calf onto a cow who lost her own. It’s a chore with some no doubt, but can turn situations of tragedy into triumph in most cases.

            My children have gotten to experience life and death on the ranch more than most children their age. As they grow older I hope that they will learn to appreciate that. I hope that as a parent I have taught them how to process grief, manage their emotions, and appreciate the sanctity of life itself. I hope that on their worst day, they find something to smile about.

            That’s all for this time. Hopefully everyone is enjoying those new baby calves and is having far more good calving days than bad. Keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire and God bless.