Sometimes our sweet Emilyn, being the typical middle child, needs a tangible reminder that she’s Mama’s special girl. She really cherishes time I set aside specifically to invest in her, and I value that one-on-one time too. That’s how the recent Mother-Daughter Heifer Check came about. We still have about 20 stragglers (bred heifers that we think… we hope… will deliver their first calves soon… eventually… maybe). Though these stragglers don’t get near as much attention as their peers who delivered at the start of calving season did (because by golly we’re worn out by now, and if they’re gonna be this darn slow about it, they can just fend for themselves), Beau does still try to ride through them daily to make sure there’s no calving trouble.
One day last week I convinced Beau that if he and our son could keep the baby distracted, Emi and I could ride through the heifers and get a count on them. We would take a walkie-talkie along so we could call for help if any of the heifers were having trouble. He agreed because at this point — after a somewhat dismal calving season — he was needing a break, and we two girls really couldn’t hurt his calving percentage anyhow, and Emi’s behavior was telling us she was needing some TLC.
The heifers are in our horse pasture, a little over a half section. On that day there were 50 two-year-old heifers in there, 1 yearling heifer (the kids’ bum calf from last year), and 14 new calves (after a heifer calves and she and baby are doing well, the pair is generally moved through a gate into another pasture — but on this day Beau was a little behind getting the new pairs kicked out, so at least 14 of the heifers Emi and I checked had already delivered).
Emi and I went to the barn — just the two of us! — to saddle up Doogan and Frosty (she calls them Big Brother and Little Brother because she can’t remember their names for some reason):
I haven’t been riding much, so I had joked with Beau that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to saddle the horses by myself… but the motions all came back to me, just like riding a bicycle. Once Emi was on board Doogan and I on Frosty, we headed out to look at heifers. It was a beautiful evening with lots of potentially great photo ops. I had to control myself, though, because both Emi and the horses were losing patience with my stopping and shooting. But I did get these pictures:
And lots of heifer and baby calf pictures, too. Some of the heifers — those with older calves — were plumb happy to see us:
Others, with brand new calves, weren’t too happy to see us at all and watched us warily as we continued on. (The trouble with checking heifers when you’re leading a second horse with your precious 3-year-old on board is that you can’t get too close to anything that looks suspicious… because if the cow gets mad, there’s no safe way to quickly git out of there with the kid.) This heifer, below, had her calf hidden in the greasewood and really gave us the evil eye:
Next we rode through the heavies bunch. “Heavies” are cows that are pregnant and very close to calving but that haven’t calved yet. Did you know that cows tend to segregate themselves, just like people do? The heavies stick with the other heavies, the new moms with the other new moms, the dries with the other dries, etc. This ol’ girl, below, seemed in no hurry to deliver. She chewed her cud and inspected us as we sat and watched her for a good three minutes. (I was trying to get a spectacular picture of a cow chewing cud, and after multiple attempts, this is the best I could do. I think the photo less captures the cud-chewing and more suggests a jaw injury and/or delayed mental status):
This one posed with the yellow-throated bird we’ve been seeing a lot of this spring:
And then, on the east side of the pasture near the county road, Emi and I came across this babysitter bunch. You’ll find “babysitter bunches” in groups of cows with “toddler” calves. The calves aren’t newborn — if they were, they’d be off hiding out with their mamas — but they’re not yet old enough to be independent and go off to play. So the cows hole their calves up somewhere all together and leave one cow in charge so the rest of the cows can go to water or go off a-grazin’:
I think there were 11 calves in this bunch, but I could never get a real good picture of all of them at once — some were moving about and others were nestled securely under giant greasewoods. All of them soooo cute.
After Emi and I had counted the babysitter bunch, our check was over, so we headed back toward the barn. I’d counted all the heifers Beau had said there should be and saw no heifers having calving trouble. Which makes me a little suspicious of all the times he has claimed he had to search the pasture high and low and go through it six times to get his count… and/or found a heifer or two needing some sort of assistance. I mean, all we girls had to do was right a pretty little circle through the pasture and everything was just fine.
Just kidding about him exaggerating the difficulty of the job. I think we girls just plain got lucky this time!
I wish I had a picture of myself and Emi and our horses checking heifers together. But have you ever tried to ride a horse, lead a horse carrying your precious 3-year-old daughter, and take a picture of yourself at the same time? I think it’s probably impossible to do. If you try it and can do it, let me know. I know there are a lot of folks out there a lot more proficient at the selfie than I am, so I guess it’s possible. Keep me updated.
One more note: the kids and I will not be going on lots of long rides for years to come. Why? Because little kids don’t like to trot. Their little legs can’t reach the stirrups and they have no way to brace themselves. Trotting for a 3-year-old girl is like bouncing on top of a basketball for a slug: it’s hard to stay upright and you just wish it would stop. A couple times Emi asked if we could “thot” during our evening heifer check, and I would tell her to just holler if it didn’t feel okay, and I would urge our horses into a “thot,” and within a few seconds Emi would be hollering at me to “Thop! THOP!”
(She has the most adorable little lisp.)
So our horses traveled at a walk pretty much the entire time. Which was fine, because Emi and I were doing it together. But riding through that pasture at a walk is not something I would want to do every day. For the record, I am not a big fan of walking a horse for long distances. God made horses to move! I spent my youth following my dad everywhere he went at a trot, and I got downright accustomed to it. Now, when I have to walk a horse for a long distance, I feel like my legs are going to explode. Also like I want to jump off and run so I can get where I’m going faster. Also: mildly homicidal.
I know it’s weird. I’m just not much of a trail rider. That means this: the kids and I will be keeping our rides short and sweet until they learn to “thot.”
Good thing a short and sweet ride is just perfect for a short and sweet girl. Love you, Fuzz Head.