Saturday, June 22, 2013

White Plains Pastoral

I've just discovered PicMonkey, and I'm having way too much fun recreating some of my favorite pictures.

In 2009, my oldest son was away at boot camp. I prepared long, elaborate newsletters peppered with pictures of home. Not only did he covet the pictures and news from home, he passed the newsletters around to his buddies and they got to see a slice of rural Mississippi life.

Happy trails!



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wrangling Cows in the Mud

Somehow I’ve been roped back into wrangling cows.

Not sure how it happened, but last week I became the spotter for all the baby calves born on the Hillman ranch. The last few years, I managed to wriggle out of the responsibility around the farm because I had a full-time job, but now that I’m working from home, I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that my skills are going to be put to use again.

I grew up on a dairy farm, worked cows, put up hay in the summer, bush hogged, helped my daddy rebuild tractors, delivered calves, whatever our hands found to do, we did it. I even had aspirations of becoming a vet, until I passed out watching our vet perform major surgery. I know the difference between a crescent wrench and a reversible ratchet, and how to back a 30’ Gooseneck trailer up to the chute.

With such an impressive resume, it’s no wonder My Cowboy picked me when he was looking for a wife. Hmmmm, I wonder… Oh, well, after all these years it’s too late to ask now, isn’t it? So, after spending our first anniversary in the hay field, I got wise. I raised two strapping boys with the intention of not being My Cowboy’s sidekick in my dotage.

Uh-huh.
Twins!

Where’s a strapping cowboy and his offspring when you need ‘em? And when it’s cold weather too!

Grumbling and complaining about the cold and cowboys on the lam is pretty pointless when cows are dropping calves and they might be in trouble. So this week, I kept an eye on the cows and spotted a set of twins! Thank goodness they arrived without fanfare, and Big Mama didn’t need My Cowboy to come riding in astride the big red truck to save her babies.

The next day I went to check on a yellow cow (you can see her in the background) expected to give birth any minute. Good thing I did because I found this little newborn feller hip deep in ooey-gooey black mud. I knew I couldn’t get close enough in the 4-wheel drive truck to rescue him, and I didn’t want to risk the wrath of his mama by wading out into the mud (not to mention losing my boots!) without a buffer zone, so I rushed back to the house and got a 4-wheeler.

I pulled the 4-wheeler right up to him and wrestled him free, then with one eye on Big Mama, I crawfished the 4-wheeler backward hauling him with me until we were clear of the mud. I didn’t take time to get my good camera, but did take a shot of him with my phone after I’d pulled him from the goo. And, I’m happy to say that I spotted him later up and nursing, so all is well.
Newborn Calf Rescued from the Mud

So, how does all this relate to writing? I write historical fiction, mostly westerns, mostly about cowboys and cowgirls taming the land and the animals around them. My gut instinct was to try to wrestle that 40 lb muddy, stinky calf on to the 4-wheeler with me and bring him to the house and clean him up. But it wasn’t overly cold (about 40 degrees), it wasn’t raining, and it was daylight.

Against a mama’s instinct, but natural to a rancher, I left him right there and got out of Dodge. As soon as I moved away, Big Mama moved in and started nuzzling her baby, cleaning, protecting, and warming him with her tongue. Pretty soon he was on his feet filling his belly with his first milk, which he needed more than me taking him away from his mama.

I write what I know, and that’s farming and ranching, and driving jacked-up trucks and big tractors, but I did miss the horse and buggy in one area… I should’ve had more kids!

Happy trails,
Pam Hillman
www.pamhillman.com