Lately most, but not all , of our ranch efforts have gone as planned. One exception resulted recently when Norman (remember the bull calf abandoned by his mother in favor of his freemartin heifer twin?) and another calf at a most inconvenient time decided to scamper away from the herd. The time had come to organize a cattle drive from our newer ranch, Hidden Falls, to Medicine Spirit Ranch where the grass was better. The bull, cows and calves seemed anxious and willing to follow Trudy in the gator that held a bag of range cubes. Juan, our ranch hand, and I flanked and pushed then from behind.
It was only after the herd had gone through the front gate at Hidden Falls and were trundling merrily along our county road that I realized two calves were missing. After securing the herd at Medicine Spirit Ranch, the three of us returned to Hidden Falls Ranch where, lo and behold, Norman and friend frolicked, seemingly enjoying their newly found, adolescent freedom.
What followed was part cowboy and part keystone cops. We did our dead level best to drive those two now apprehensive calves out the gate and down the county road. They had realized by then that they had lost contact with their herd and likely believed the other cows still resided back at the ranch we were leaving.
Needless to say, their young bovine four legs easily outdistanced our older human ones despite our considerable effort. Multiple times we had the two calves near the entrance to Medicine Spirit Ranch only to have them bolt and backtrack into the neighboring ranch. Once we were within spitting distance of the entrance to Medicine Spirit Ranch only to have two roaring cement trucks race down the road, frightening us and scattering the calves. Trudy gave the two cement trucks who had failed to heed her signals to slow up the one finger salute as they thundered by. Ultimately exhausted and irritated to near apoplexy we drove the two calves back to Hidden Falls.
The following day with our spirits and bodies renewed we drove the entire herd of cattle back to Hidden Falls where an uncomfortable mama cow with a bulging milk sack sprinted for the two hungry calves. After chowing down at the milk bar, the calves became anxious to rejoin the herd and followed their now relieved mama in that direction. Our efforts this time to drive the herd to Medicine Spirit Ranch were accomplished without so much as a calf getting out of line.
Norman has always been a different sort of calf to be sure. After a time of great dependence on Trudy and me, he became fairly indifferent to us following his adoption by his new cow mother. Nevertheless this was not the case when I went searching for Norman on that second day. He came running up to me and sucked on my thumb and let me scratch his ears. No doubt, he was famished and had likely not enjoyed spending his first night away from the herd and alone among predators. Ah, Norman- you are a different type of calf.