A Pretty Good Day
Sunday dawned sunny and dry, the first dry day in two weeks.
I had celebrated the five inches of wet, heavy snow plus the couple of inches of rain that brought the grass back to life and soaked the soil, but it had been hard to get much done in the mud.
I needed to bring some steers to the corral. This would be a great day for a horseback ride.
I let my 11-year-old daughter, Abby, sleep while I finished shop-vaccing the water that had seeped into the basement and trekked to the barn for morning chores.
Five of the six orphan lambs that I had been nursing along for the past six months greeted me hungrily.
One lay on the straw, stiff, with a blank, lifeless stare.
I caught two horses and noticed they were slobbering a lot. As I saddled them, I made a mental note to get the vet to float their teeth.
Abby and I were stepping into our saddles when the renter pulled up. He planned to move by December. The rent check isn’t much, but it would disappear.
Abby texted a friend with the news.
Her reply: “What happened? Did your mom punch him in the nose?”
We giggled together at that thought and at friends who tell it like it is.
The road up and over the hill was slippery so we chose to ride the trail down by the creek. A water trough sits just out of the creek to provide fresh water for the cattle and sheep. A dark blob tainted the side of the trough.
A circle of crows and magpies flew up from the blob.
The horses snorted at the calf that had somehow managed to catch its head in the lid of the trough.
We would deal with that after we got the steers in. After all, dead things don’t move very fast.
The yearlings were lounging contentedly with cows and calves in the bottom of the pasture. Abby and I circled, gathered them together and pushed them west, toward the corral.
Moving yearling steers with cows and calves is like walking a Bassett hound and a greyhound. The gears don’t match. It takes some finesse to keep the cattle moving, but not too fast. Too fast would risk sending the yearlings past the corral and up to the west end of the ranch.
Abby has learned finesse.
Together, we kept the cattle in an easy bunch, turned them just when we needed to and gently guided them into the corral.
A half an hour later, the cows and calves were out the gate while the teenage males stood at the manger.
We unsaddled, I threw a saw and two chains into the pickup and headed back to the trough.
Abby chatted about potential science projects such as testing whether heads actually float while I sawed. We knew we could not call this dry-aged beef, but considered who might need some wet-aged steaks. Morbid and politically incorrect, these jokes are the reason I win the Bad Mother of the Year award every year.
I decided this particular heifer probably actually saved me some money in the end. Right now, I have about $700 invested in her. She was a nice heifer so no doubt I would have kept her as a replacement. She was stupid enough to stick her head in a narrow slit when fresh water was 20 feet away so I’m confident she would not have taken care of a baby calf. By then I would have had about $2000 invested, so all in all I’m ahead financially.
We dropped the heifer, her head and the dead lamb at Dead Hill and circled back toward the house via the reservoir road.
We had the reservoir dam reinforced a few years ago, after muskrats had burrowed leaks into it, so the bare, wet dirt was greasy. As I crept along the dam, I wished I had replaced the racing slicks on the pickup. It eased its way over the edge, teetering at the angle of repose toward a bottomless sinkhole.
The sun was dipping to the west. It was time to walk home. Tomorrow I could bring the tractor to pull the pickup out before it rolled all the way into the sinkhole.
As she was climbing out of the truck on the uphill side, Abby spotted muskrats in the reservoir. She hit two of them with the .22.
The sun was setting a glorious magenta, pink and glowing white in the west as we walked the mile east to the house, Abby’s hand in mine.
She kept turning to admire the evening sky.
“This was a pretty good day,” she declared.
“Yes it was, Abby. Yes it was.”