Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2000

What a beautiful day in the Columbia Basin today. Bright sunshine, warm temperatures and little wind. It just does not get any better here in the middle of the month of March.Today I am going to reflect on March 16th, 2000. I see yesterdays post was aftermidnight so technically I did not miss a day I just have two posts for today.March 16th, 2000 was a much different day than I experienced today. It was much cooler and rainy as well. My Dad had called me that morning to tell me that my paternal grandmother was not doing well. Luella Mae (Sally) Olberding had been in bad health for some time and it tore at the heart of every one of us family members. Dad told me that things did not look good and that she very likely would not make it through the day. I quickly tied up some loose ends at the orchard and headed north to go see Grandma Sally that day.

I had previously purchased some bred cows and heifers that fall in Oregon. These cows were just getting into calving mode in mid March of that year. I was renting some pasture adjacent to the home ranch which is about 10 miles south of Othello. Grandma Sally was in a nursing facility in Othello so my plan was to check the cows and then travel on to see my grandmother. These cows were mostly Angus and Simmental cross cows that supposedly had been bred to a Black Angus bull. The few calves that had been born were mostly all black in color with a rare gray or chocolate colored calf. There were three first calf heifers in the group and as I arrived I noticed one of them off by herself in the corner of the field.

She seemed to be just getting started calving with nothing more than a water bag showing. I knew my parents were in town holding vigil over Grandma Sally along with most of my aunts and uncles. I decided that I had some time and making sure the heifer calved successfully was a priority. I drove around the other cows, went to my parents, got some coffee and came back to check the heifer about 30 minutes later. It was not terribly cold but the rain was coming down pretty hard that day. When I got back to the heifer I could see there was a problem. The calf was not breech but it only had one front leg out and the heifer was struggling to push. I could not get the other leg turned so I put an OB chain on the one leg and gave a steady but slow pull. The calf was almost average in size but had huge front shoulders. It came out and I quickly did all I could to make sure the calf would breathe and live. It seemed I was not gaining ground but as the heifer turned cow rose, turned and licked the calf it seemed to spring to life. I left her to attend and walked to my pickup cold, wet and very happy.

I had not been in the pickup for more than a minute and I was watching the calf and was really happy when my cell phone rang. It was my uncle Allen telling me that Grandma Sally’s suffering was over and she was gone. I told him I would be there soon and I left the field and headed to Othello. All I felt at first was guilt, my grandmother had died while I was pulling a calf. My desire for helping nature and adding to my financial gain or limiting my financial loss had kept me from being at my Grandmas side at her passing. As I drove into town I felt absolutely terrible about not getting there sooner. Soon after arriving and seeing my Grandmother sleeping peacefully I left the room and the family and went outside. I know this is getting long but for me this was a defining moment.

As I looked to the cloudy and rain filled sky I tried to tell my Grandma how sorry I was. This woman was an amazing woman and I will tell you all about her on Friday’s post. I have something for tomorrow already. As I looked to the sky and apologized to her it was like she came right to me and spoke to me. Grandma Sally was the best cattlewoman I have ever known. She knew each and every cow, she knew each and every calf, she could tell you what color calf a cow had in 1971 or what sex of calf a cow had in 1982. She had an uncanny ability to tell which cow was the next to calve. As I grew up I was in total awe of this woman and her knowledge of cattle. These days I see so much of her in my Daughter Dakota and that makes me very happy.

As she came to me in spirit that day she was just as soothing and gentle as she had been to all of us grandchildren over the years. In her soft voice she told me that she was glad I had taken the time to help the heifer and save the calf. She told me she understood and to not be so hard on myself. I tell you in all honesty as I felt her understanding words, the rain stopped and to the east I saw one of the most gorgeous rainbows I have ever witnessed. Losing her was difficult but that spring and the rest of calving season had a magical quality about it. I cannot end this post without one other bit of information.

That calf I saved that day, the one from a mostly Black Angus mother (Dam) and supposedly from a Black Angus Bull (Sire) and the only calf that was not either purely black or chocolate in color from those particular cows that year. The calf was as white as fresh Christmas morning snow.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the long tailed weasel aka Mustela frenata.

Today’s picture is calf number 0705w who was tagged incorrectly trying to eat grass straw. He makes me look forward to spring branding so that tag can be fixed!