The Farmer’s Wife – Pulling Legs
Farmers certainly know how to pull your leg with long winded, fanciful and funny stories of the antics that happen on a farm, but when I helped pull my first calf there was nothing humorous about the experience. When George first told me we had to check the cows while they were calving I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought calves came out pretty naturally, but it turns out, sometimes they don’t.
Imagine for a second a cow in the pain of birthing, sheer exhaustion setting in and no chance of finding the energy to push again. How on earth do you help her? Turns out it isn’t really that complicated and you can do amazing things with hay bail twine.
I had often wondered why the hay twine was wrapped tightly around the carry all tray on the back of the four wheeled motorbike. I figured it was for tying up fences or general fix it type jobs; it was of course, but I never thought for a second you could use it to save a calf or its mother.
I watched as George reached inside the cow; my nose must have screwed up at the sight because George laughed. There was mucus everywhere and as his reached the calf, the cow moaned. He told me it was stuck and I looked blankly at him, wondering what on earth that meant.
Without another word George pulled a few strands of twine from the motorbike and made a half hitch. He reached inside and placed the first loop around the calf’s hoof. After repeating the process on the other hoof he indicated for me to help him as he wrapped the twine around his hands and started to pull. As he pulled, I pushed down on the twine and after a few soft moans and a few minutes the calf slipped free of the warm surrounds of its mother.
There was something both amazing and scary in that moment, as we waited to see if the calf would take its first breath and the mother tried desperately to see her baby. George cleared the mucus from the calf’s nostrils and dragged the still body around to the head of the cow. She began to licked its face and body vigorously with her raspy tongue. At first nothing happened, then her baby opened its eyes and struggled to lift its head. With a smile and a murmur of satisfaction George jumped back on the motorbike. I was too surprised to move at first, then I jumped on behind him and we rode back to the dairy.
Life and death holds a different meaning when you have been a farmer’s wife. It is both more important and less all at the same time. I think it was the many calves we pulled, some that made it and the ones that didn’t which prepared me for the loss of one of our own babies; but that is another story……from another time…..