Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Momma-Cow Turned Momma Bear

Before we moved to the family ranch, we worked our way through college at few different ranches.  Of course nothing compares to working your OWN ground or your OWN cows, but we still had some great times and some great memories on the operations we were a part of.  Once in a while a story comes to mind from those days and we have a little fun reliving those good times.  Every year when calving season comes along, there is one story that always comes up.  One of those remember-whens that you actually don't want to remember.

Any rancher will tell you that a momma cow can instantly turn momma bear real fast.  A cow that seems perfectly harmless suddenly becomes anything but as soon as you lay hands on her baby.  And really, who can blame her?  I think that sometimes I turn into a momma bear when I have sweet little babies, and they aren't even getting tagged!

But... Even if I do relate to them, sorta, that doesn't mean they need to eat my husband for lunch!

Actually this story was before we were married.  Even before we were dating.  I was in the midst of my sophomore year of college and my only sanity was heading up to my brother's near Salmon, Idaho.  He had my horse, cows, and a population of about 50 and it called to me after long hard days of school and work and SO many people.  Ironically, I didn't have a car (probably a good thing or I would have spent all of the money I didn't have driving up there all the time) and I had to convince friends and roommates that we should take a trip up to the ranch to have a little R&R.

It was on one of these weekends that I met The Rancher.  He was doing his internship up there, partially in an effort to avoid the school work and people like I was.  Truth be told, I had no interest in him at first.  I had sworn off boys because they just caused frustration and heart ache.  Cows and horses, on the other hand, only caused frustration. I was determined to take advantage of the little time I had on the ranch and soak in as much fresh air and get as much poop on my boots as possible.  To that end, I got brave, and asked The Rancher if I could ride along with him to check cows on his late night watch.  Being the player he was at the time (haha...) he shyly agreed and I hopped in the truck.

For the most part, it was uneventful.  There was a calf or two born.  We tagged them, gave them shots, wrote it all down and moved on.  It was cold and bumpy but it was fun.  We went out checking for a few nights and it was all the same every night.  Until we found one of those momma-bear momma cows.

This brilliant momma, had decided to have her calf in the snow.  Something not all that conducive to life if you were just born and wet and cold.  We had been checking around the different fields and found this cow exactly where she shouldn't have been.  Labor does strange things and apparently with her, it made her want to climb through a few fences and birth in the privacy found in the wheel-line stock pile.  Not knowing that she was calving or had just had a calf, we drove over to get her back in where she was supposed to be.

The Rancher hopped the barbed wire fence, figuring it would only take just a minute to get the cow back in her field.  That's when he saw the baby and plans changed.  Getting the two of them back was totally on the back burner and keeping the calf alive was all that mattered.  The momma was loving on him, but he had yet to get up and out of the snow.  So being the nice guy that he was, The Rancher grabbed a leg and started dragging the calf out of the snow.

It only took a second for that cow to turn momma-bear.  For all she knew, someone was messing with her baby and she wasn't going to have any of that. 

Now put yourself in my shoes, or rather my seat.  Here I was, sitting in the front seat of an old, beat up ranch truck, riding around with a kid I hardly knew.  He was across a barbed wire fence, through drifts of snow and there was a momma cow about ready to have him for a midnight snack. 

What was a girl to do? 

It was dark and the only light was from the poor headlights (calling the headlights as poor was a compliment!), and he was far enough away I really couldn't see well enough to know what was happening, just that things were getting a little (or a lot!) intense over there.  But, was he ok and wouldn't need any help?  Or was he only seconds away from broken bones and smashed insides?  Was there even anything in the truck that I could use to help him?  Should I risk life and limb for this kid?  I could see myself jumping out of the truck, slipping a time or two as I trudged through the snow, getting tangled up in the wire fence as I tried to cross it in the dark and finally make it to him only to find everything ok and totally unworth my efforts.  Or I would do something embarrassing like fall on my face in the snow or rip my pants on the barbed wire...

So I just sat there.

Heroic, I know.  But before I made a move, I wanted to know what that cow had in mind.  It didn't take long for her to prove that she meant business.  She took off straight for The Rancher, covering the 10 yards between them in seconds.  At this point all I could do was pray.  Pray that he got out of there in time.  Pray that she changed her mind.  Pray that even if she did get him, it wouldn't be too bad.  Pray that he wouldn't need mouth to mouth...

It must of worked because just as she was about to him, a snow drift popped up in front of her and she dropped to her knees.  It was the few seconds The Rancher needed to get clear of the calf, sail over the fence, and finally take a breath!

And then, to be terribly honest, I don't remember much that happened next.  I know we had other cows and fields to check and so I'm sure we just moved on with the night.  The Rancher might have been a little more weary and a little more spry in case any other mommas had a little bit of momma-bear in them.

Reliving that story every year always brings new things to light, like how The Rancher was actually grateful for the chance to look so brave and he was a little sad that I didn't need to give him a little mouth to mouth...  I, on the other, hand, am just glad that he managed to survive that night so we could have our life together now.  Do any of you have a good momma-bear story?

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