Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This morning I am reminded

of the day I helped my daddy Dave birth a calf. The calf was backwards inside the cow; a death sentence if not dealt with promptly. The cow may or may not have been able to birth the calf herself, and if so, the likelihood of the calf's death was high. Once the birthing process starts, and once the umbilical cord is broken, the calf must be expelled quickly or the placenta would smother it.
The cow wasn't going to have a successful birth, so my dad hooked up this contraption to the calf's legs...I am forgetting the name for it. Come-away I think...or something like that.
It was Summer, more than likely I was in my shit-stained jeans, sports bra, and shit-covered boots. Sweaty and dirty. Very rustic look.
I had to help my dad pull. I was in front, he was behind me, and I had to pull as hard as I could and lean back as far as I could.
Then the calf slid out, covered in blood and placenta. It looks at first like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Dad rushed over to remove the covering over the calf's nose. It wasn't breathing. I thought we were too slow, or perhaps the calf had already suffocated in the womb. My dad then picked up the calf and started beating it against the cement. Not bashing it's head in or anything like that, but more it's chest. Like when you are shaking a person so they 'get a grip'. I didn't know what my dad was doing, I thought he was pissed off that the calf had died. Next thing I know, the calf lets out a bleat. It's alive! What my dad had done was a cow-version of a heart jump-start.
The depressing part of this story was that the calf later died from illness.
There is part of me that will be forever touched by this. Helping with a birth, seemingly impossible to succeed, but yet it did for a short while.

I have other stories...of life and loss.
A kitten that I found on the verge of death. I named her Baby Fae. I think I mixed up milk replacer for her and would squirt some in her mouth ever few minutes with a syringe. I was determined I would revive her, determined to keep her alive. My daddy Dave told me she was half-dead, to leave her be, that it was hopeless. Suddenly after one of her mini-feedings that night she let out a roaring mew. After that she wouldn't shut up, she mewed and mewed, ate and mewed. I was shaken, it was unexpected. I was also thrilled beyond comprehension. I brought her to the homestead with me, she mewed all the way. She spent the night in the barn below the house. I mixed up milk with warmed up moist food, brought kibble down too. She wolfed down nourishment. I was ectatic.
The next day went well, she ate during the day, scampered around, and was very lovey. I believe that night she took a down-turn, she wasn't really accepting any food I gave her. Same with that morning. By the afternoon she had died. The heavy weight of failure fell on my shoulders. My dad was right, it was an impossible mission. More than likely she was already experiencing organ shut-down by the time I found her. She was lying in the classic 'death position'.  That year was a terrible year for the barn cats. I think we had drought weather, we hardly ever had dump milk. An over-population of cats, which always lead to sickness. I grew up on an old-school farm. If you were to say 'why didn't your parents/grandparents have the cats spayed or neutered?' With the exception of my mom (in a way) they would say you didn't waste money on 'damn cats'. My grandma was the one to buy cat food for them...after she died all that they kept on hand was dog food. With the occasional dump-milk breakfast, they were expected to fend for themselves with hunting.
Gradually more and more died off or probably went elsewhere. After I was 'released' from the farm, I went though a huge period of guilt. I, alone, helped mother cats raise their kittens by providing extra food for them. I brought some cat food from the 'stead to bring Squeaky or the other mother cats/kittens. Pretty much being told I wasn't needed anymore, it hurt.
I felt like I abandoned them.
Now, going to the farm is entirely different. Back 4-5 years ago I had 15 cats or more that would follow me around, crawl all over me, and give me love. Now, there is mention that a lone cat is living there, but it's not one of the originals. To me the life of the farm is gone.
We do not milk cows anymore...no cats or kittens running around. I guess it is as it should be.

Cordelia looks at me with disdain right now because I bathed her with kitty bath wipes and gave her a good brushing. Oh lord, how dare I clean her! She smells fresh and looks shiny and floofy. What a stunning fluffball.

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