Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Tradition

The house was locked up tighter than Ft. Knox and lights out. 
Caroline was sound asleep in her crib and her chest was moving up and down (at what age do parents stop checking this?). 
Prayers were said, and I was so, so close to sleep. 
That's when I heard my cell phone buzz on the nightstand. 

A text from Cody, two time zones west: "You may need to keep an eye on 301. I think she's starting.”

Keep an eye on 301? My eyes were about to shut for five straight hours, I thought to myself.

Work Hard, Rest Hard

And so, the last three months have been as such. It has only been at night, when the sun settles somewhere far past Indiana, and it is dark and cold that the cattle calm enough to focus on what they’re all supposed to be doing this time of year: Calving. 

The good news is that we have barn cameras that allow us to watch what’s going on outdoors without getting bundled up. 
The bad news is that we have barn cameras that allow us to watch what’s going on outdoors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (if you have the stamina). 
The worst news is Cody can access those cameras from his phone, no matter where his travels take him. 

My phone is my alarm clock, and my alarms are set as follows when I think something shows signs of calving overnight: 

The wake schedule is basically 
like having a new baby in the house.
And I wonder why my under-eye 

cream doesn't seem to be working. 

I haven't always answered the call of duty, though. On one particular night in late February I slept through three texts and four phone calls from Cody. He went on to contact a neighbor for help, while I slept soundly in the house. We have amazing rural neighbors

The months of January through March have been comprised of spot lights cutting through pastures, warm gloves and late night texts between husband and wife, and not the exciting kind. These are the kind of texts that silently say, "We're in this together, even when hundreds of miles apart." 

He sends me shots of the beautiful countryside he’s seeing from coast to coast and advice on how to handle difficult situations at home, while I send him photos of the newest calves to hit the ground and video of our sweet Caroline. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?

Each morning and evening (and sometimes overnight) I come in the house and unbundle. Usually exhausted, sometimes frustrated, but never questioning the work. I was raised this way and Cody was, too. Caroline – the greatest and slowest farm hand I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with – already has the farm life engrained in her. I have to bribe her out of the barn with goldfish crackers.

Sometimes she watches me struggle to move a rogue calf or pen a pair and seems to say,
"Dad would have had this done thirty minutes ago."

In our dining room hangs a poem given to us on our wedding day. The gifters - my in-laws - no doubt knew the bride and groom well, and all that they (we) were about to embark upon.

The Tradition

Some folks just don’t get it.
They think owning cattle makes no sense.
It takes too much time, too much equipment,
not to mention the expense.

But the fondest memories of my life
– they might think sound funny –
were made possible by Mom and Dad,
‘cause they spent the time and spent the money.

You see, the most important lessons
helping values grow so strong,
come from loving cattle
and passing that tradition on.

In less than a month the grass will be green, temperatures will be warming, and we’ll be able to look across our pastures and see a flurry of black calves (plus two red ones) running with their tails up, exploring the bounds of the farm. 
Cody’s travel will slow and he’ll be home regularly, which means I’ll probably need to start cooking full meals again. 
The sleepless nights will be a tired memory that paid off with a healthy calf crop. 
And we’ll pass The Tradition on.

Until then, 
with every wake up call or 
dark trek across the barn lot, 
I'll Just. Keep. Swimming.