Calving has official started. The heifers were suppose to start March 1st, but babies started coming two weeks early. Most ranchers prepare for this, as bulls selected to use on heifers have lighter birthweights, as the heifers are young and small. And these bulls throw lighter birthweights because the calves are born earlier, not lighter.
This is the official start of my yearling breakup from my husband when I become a “calving widow”. Similar to a branding widow, AI widow, rodeo widow, haying widow, and weaning widow. Your husband ceases to exist for a month or two at a time. His hair will be long with scruffy beard, and bags under his eyes when he reemerges in May. Newt will check every two hours at night, maybe more if the weather is wet or cold or snowy. He leaves before daylight and comes back about 10:30 pm at night. He is his only employee. For two months he will oversee the delivery of four hundred cows.
The first bit of calving has been hard. The first calf was born dead. The same day another calf met his maker after his head was “back” behind the pelvis. (Usually the front legs come out first, followed by the head, then the hips, and finally the back legs and tail. A perfect swan dive in a normal delivery.)
Last night, Newt left at one in the morning to check. ReeRee woke up at three, peeved it was me instead of DadddEEE. She wailed for a while.
Two hours is a long time to check. Two hours is a long time to help deliver a problem calf. Two hours is too long.
By nature, I am a worrier. We live several miles from the main ranch, so I couldn’t leave ReeRee alone to check on Newt. Did the heifer smash him into the fence? Was he waiting in the frigid wind, bleeding from a wound on his head? Maybe Zippy, the colt he just started riding, threw him and his foot is stuck in the stirrup. Maybe Zippy is spooked and running circles in the corral with Newt’s head bouncing off the posts as he drags behind. I went through a million possibilities from 3 am to 5 am. In my mind, I was already a calving widow.
But how long do you wait? Until you pull on the snow boots and heavy coat, leave your child at home, and hope you don’t find what your scenes your mind has created. How long is too long?
Newt did eventually show up. A small heifer had a 102 pound calf that was too big to deliver vaginally. He loaded her up in the trailer and took her to the vet for a C-section. Another round of bad luck.
He crawled into bed. “Your check took a long time.”
“Yeah, I probably should have stop in on the way by to tell you about the C-section. It took a while.”