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Checking Cows

Checking Cows

After moving eight miles from town and down the road from my in-laws, I wondered at my father-in-law’s compulsion to drive through his cattle every single day, sometimes twice. My husband did the same. We drove through the steers he fed out on leased grass most every day until the fall when they were taken to the sale barn.

Watching the herd graze under an endless blue sky from our new front porch was enjoyable, but nothing special. It’s not like you could actually pet a cow or form a bond like you can with other kinds of pets.

On occasion, my father-in-law included my sons in his craziness by stopping on his four-wheeler and taking them along. They eagerly watched for him at the end of the drive, absolute joy sparkling in their eyes as they waved to me from the seat beside him.

One morning I observed the task of ‘checking the cows’ in a whole new light. My mother-in-law was admitted for a heart procedure. While my husband joined his family at the hospital, the checking of the cattle fell to me and my oldest son. It was early spring and our instructions were simple; count the pairs of momma cows and calves, making certain no one was missing. During this time of year, the newborn calves are vulnerable to stray dogs, coyotes, and even in today’s world, rustlers. This is also the time of year first time mother cows, called heifers, might have problems with giving birth.

Bouncing across the pasture in the four-wheeler with my son at the wheel, the meadowlarks provided stereo surround sound as their melody cheerfully exclaimed a new day. It was early morning. The air was still and cool, with just enough chill to tingle the tip of my nose.

There was one slight problem: we couldn’t find a single cow.

We drove back and forth, criss-crossing the place and then back again, making wide circles. Just about the time we were ready to admit defeat and resort to riding fence line to search for a hole in the barbed wire fence, we topped a small rise at the back of the place. There they were. The herd grazed at the very  bottom of a low wash, which is why we hadn’t been able to see them from anywhere on the place.

A few of the mother cows leisurely raised their heads as we came over the hill. Their babies hopped and chased each other. The calves speckled the pasture in a variety of colors in shades of rust, brown, caramel, and my favorite, a dark, rich mocha brown. The patches of grass glistened in brilliant shades of green, washed clean from an early rain shower. Sparkling blue pools doted the lows giving the herd no reason to come in from the back pasture for a drink during the night. A total feeling of peace settled on my agitated mood.

Is this real or a place out of fantasy – lovely, serene, home, perfect? The worries of the hectic world seemed thousands of miles away.

Rural living is meddled into my bones now to become a part of me. The sunrises, the sunsets, the wildlife, the pasture land that we are stewards of, and yes, even the lumbering cattle who year after year do their job to produce beef to feed consumers. On rare occasions there will be one old cow, who for some reason, feels a need to receive a scratch between the ears. I guess in their own way every creature finds a way to bond with the humans who care for them.

All photos by N. Bright.

Natalie Cline Bright is a blogger, speaker and author of the fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, the RESCUE ANIMAL picture book series, and is currently working on an action-packed novel for young adults, WOLF’S WAR. Visit her Amazon Author Page to learn more about her books.