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Just another day in paradise.

Some days you win and some days you…wish you’d never gambled. As I explained to the Lady at the Bank, there’s a period of time between babysitting first calf heifers day in and day out and the day their calf gets weaned, when you do all you can in the hopes that it will be enough to get them on the truck. The calf check only comes if they survive through the fall. We are in that period now. We drive around each day to check the water troughs and look to see where all the cows are. The seasoned cows knew right where to go to find new feed and water, but some of the heifers forgot to follow them and stayed in close to the meadows where they were comfortable and things were familiar. Some of them hooked up with the older cows and went out and about and found new boundaries. Those that were left to fend for themselves ended up needing our help to find some new feed and discover the water troughs.

The last few days have been like the Everest ride at Disney World. I think it’s safe to say (for now) that we are on the last leg where you get deposited at the exit and you are thrilled that you lived through it.

About a week ago we decided that if we could shut off two of the troughs, the cows would make their way to the others that were a bit farther away and had more feed that needed to be utilized. In theory, it sounded great. Driving by, (the country road runs through our permit) for a day or two anyway, it looked like it might be working. Then Husbeast came back from irrigating with a scowl on his face.

“The cows are in the riparian,” he said with a sound of defeat. They aren’t supposed to be in there right now so we needed to get them out. Trouble is, the river is very high and very wide because of all the runoff. That meant that he would have to go it alone and the kids and I would have a different task. We went one way, he went to the riparian. After we bumped our group of heifers to a trough where we could all meet up, the kids and I headed in the direction of the river. I breathed a sigh of relief when we popped over the hill and there Husbeast was with all the cows. He said that when the cows and calves bailed in to cross back over to the right side, his little mare buckled on her life vest, inflated the water wings, pulled on a snorkel and went for it. He hung on while she swam across and lunged up the opposite bank.

We dumped these cows and the group we had brought at the new (to them) troughs on up the road. Mission accomplished…again.

Then two days ago, the message you don’t want to receive buzzed me awake “…an accident with one of your calves…”

Son. Of. A. Badword. Cuss some more. Stomp around the house. Think about crying. Begin the day peeved, sad and deflated. Then to head out to the scene and find that it was a calf out of a heifer. A heifer calf out of a heifer. One of those that was babysat through the winter and marked for “replacement” status in the fall. Dead.

Nothing more could be done there and we took the steps to move forward with the day. Only to find out that the cows were headed home because the storage tank was empty, troughs weren’t filling and the pump had been running all night.

What. The. Hell. Off to the creek we headed to try to figure out what was wrong with the pump. If it was out entirely we were going to be in a bad way. That meant cows would have to come home for water and there is no way that will work. Hay fields are both out because they are being irrigated and the grass is growing tall. The middle field is out because the bulls have been stashed there, and they aren’t due to meet their lady friends until the middle of June. The meadows at the house are out, because they are in the rest period or playing host to horses.

Husbeast pulled the pump out of the can. No small task; it sits about 4 feet down in the creek and weighs about {80} pounds. Our greatest fears subsided a bit when the sight of the sleeve covered in a mossy film met our eyes. We took it off, scrubbed it with gloves that were stashed in the truck and flushed it in the creek. Once everything was put back together and the pump was submerged again, we both held our breath when I pushed the “on” button. Husbeast leaned over to see if the water level dropped, and I put my hands around the black pipe to feel for the coolness that meant the water was flowing. Yes and yes. We were back in business.

As we headed home that day, our thoughts were on the great relief that we had water flowing again. Husbeast vented that water is the “bane of our existence.” He speaks truth there. We live and die by water, in the desert. Even here where the snow pack still lingers and creeks run full. It doesn’t do any good just flowing by, if we can’t get it to cows and we can’t get it to meadows to irrigate. Without that water, we are toast.

While the water issue may have been solved that day, the calf issue wasn’t and can’t be. That’s one less calf we have and one that happens to mean the most. It’s another trying moment that we grieve over and then have to move forward from. There are more calves. And there’s next year.

This is one of those moments we gamble on. We played the cards we were dealt. The rest of the summer, the rest of the calves, the future, is, as always, up to the Dealer.

Meet Ruby

I am Ruby Uhart.  I'm a ranch wife, mom, bonus mom and teacher.  I'm a story teller and keeper of memories.  Thank you for visiting! 

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