On the final day the kids were here, I decided to leave the camera behind as we took off in the golf cart to see what we could find to explore.
I had taken a lot of pictures and they had taken lots of pictures of each other as well and we were all just a little tired of the camera.
So off we went, who would miss the camera, right?
While we were driving around counting the hay bales, Handsome Son came up in the truck and said
"Hey guys, I'm going to pull a calf, wanna watch?"
Apparently he was oblivious to me behind all the eagerly nodding heads, glaring at him while shaking my head NO.....
You see, pulling a calf is only done when the cow has labored unsuccessfully on her own. By the time she is discovered, usually hiding off by herself, the situation is serious. Many times the calf is already dead. Sometimes the mom doesn't make it either.
Truth is, its just not Disney all the time around here.
I was worried that this was not going to be the high note to end our sleepover on at all!
But the chance to circumvent this was just not going to happen. Three sets of eyes and heads bobbing excitedly, were in agreement. This was going to be A LOT more fun than counting hay bales!
While The Hub and Handsome Son got pails and betadine and gloves and ropes and chains (ouch)loaded in the truck, I tried for last minute damage control....
"OK guys, you need to know before we go out in the field how this is going to go"
I said, trying for a tone that was educational and factual, while in my head, I was fighting off thoughts of the trauma I might need to explain to puzzled parents later when I took them all home...
"This isn't like a movie where everything turns out good in the end...this is more like the nature shows you watch on TV where the lions really do eat the pretty antelope - do you understand?"
"Yes!" Three excited faces looked at me in anticipation of more...
Hoping this could be a case of foreknowledge trumping trauma I continued...
"There are three possible outcomes we might see here...
#1 The mama cow and the baby cow are just fine once the baby cow gets out. We hope this happens - but it might not if the baby has been in there too long.
IF that happens, it will be scenario #2",I explained as we bumped our way carefully across the pasture and into the edge of the woods, my little followers listening as carefully as any first year med students.
"In scenario #2 the calf still has to come out but it will be dead. It wont breath and we will only work on it a little bit just to make sure it isn't alive at all. We will work very hard on the mama and we will be glad that she is alive because we have a lot invested in her and while it is sad that the baby died, we will be happy if we save the mama cow because if she dies it isn't only sad, it is bad for our business when we lose her, because she is an investment."
They nodded sagely, not bothering to ask what an investment was. Homegrown economics amongst the cow patties seemed to be computing very well.
Taking a deep breath and plunging on I said,
"and the last one is scenario #3 in which the baby will be dead and the mom is so weak that she will die too. This one is very bad and doesn't happen to often but we have to be prepared for it. That is the way things work in real life sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.
"Do you still want to go watch?" I asked, I guess hoping vainly that at this point we could go back to counting hay bales or looking for the hawk we had seen the day before...
The vote to go watch was unanimous if you didn't count me - which no one did.
At this point, we had to abandon the golf cart and go deeper into the woods on foot. When we got to the cow, the guys had finished putting a makeshift halter on her to restrain her if she decided to run for it. She was a smaller black and white Holstein and you could see two little white hooves poking out of her backside just underneath her tail. At least she was still on her feet which was a good sign that she hadn't been worn down by hours of labor. I felt scenario #3 slipping quietly off the list of options, much to my relief.
Once mama was restrained, the action moved south to her backside. The chains went on the calf's feet. The traction bar enables you to pull without damaging the calf's feet. The best way to pull is straight down to the ground, which Handsome Son did. The chain popped and he fell flat on his back prompting nervous laughter on the part of the kids as he got up brushed off the leaves and reattached the chain more securely.
He pulled again.
My plan had been to stay right there with the kids (who had a birds eye view of everything that was happening)and narrate the good or bad so they would understand what they were seeing.
What actually happened is the guys yelled "come help pull!" I had to leave the kids and go help...
within about 15 seconds I had ears in my hands, along with a brow and forehead. "Its alive" someone shouted and out in one ginormous plop slid the biggest bull calf we had ever seen.
He wasn't breathing but you could see his heart beating so we cleared his airways and untied his mama, so she could turn around and take care of him. We gave her a shot to help her get rid of the afterbirth, which she didn't even notice - so intent was she on her baby.
Meanwhile, the little munchkins were moving closer and closer with little gasps of awe and excited whispers. The calf started to breathe and immediately looked even bigger then he had the moment before. He raised his big wobbly head in a drunken circle before he flopped back on to the leaves while his mom licked him dry with a big rough tongue.
That was when I heard little voices saying "This was a #1 scenario!"
"What?" said Handsome Son?
You know, they replied with happy squeals a #1! Everybody lives!"
So maybe life can sometimes be a little like Disney.
Now and then.
(and me without a camera for all this!)
And they all lived happily ever after.