Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: March 2012

Bovine Appreciation Day

It’s time to write your congressmen- your senators. We have holidays celebrating all manner of ridiculousness- why not celebrate something truly mooving? Forget Valentines Day, let’s hear it for Bovine Appreciation Day!
I can see your looks of concern through the screen, but stay with me for a sec.
How many times a day do you pull milk or cheese from the refrigerator? What about burgers and steak and brisket? Nobody craves chicken! Well, maybe fried chicken- but I know none of you shell out the big bucks at steak houses for grilled chicken breast!
And what do cows get in return for their great contribution to society?
Grass.
Do they complain?
No! They endure droughts, freezing temperatures, severe storms, flies, extreme heat, and the delivery of 200 pound babies in the wilderness.
Which brings me to my new appreciation.
On Monday evening, I made my daily walk down to the gate to perform “baby watch”. We all had begun to believe that Clara has miscarried at some point since three weeks had elapsed since her sister calved. Plans were being made. After all, cattle ranching is a business. No calves = No free room and board.
So I didn’t really expect to find anything as I approached the green gate, but something to my left caught my eye. All of the cows were standing together and something black fell on the ground. My brain couldn’t connect the dots. I scanned the group and saw Daisy, our 3-week-old calf standing nearby. As I looked back to Clara I finally noticed the aftermath of birth covering her backside.
The black thing in the grass?
A calf.
She just dropped the thing on the ground while I was standing there.
My confusion turned to excitement and I started screaming at the kids through the open windows of the house. Everyone ran down.
And I mean everyone.
All 5 of us, the 2 dogs, then the neighbors and their two dogs.
There was no quiet moment of bonding. Clara began the arduous task of cleaning the entire calf with her tongue. After all, there are things in these woods that delight in small packages covered in blood-dead or alive.
Over the next 30 minutes, she cleaned the calf and nudged the little ball to its feet. She shooed away four dogs and one rambunctious calf all while trying to help her newborn find its legs and take its first feeding.
While six kids and three adults stared at her.     
As I watched her, it was not lost on me that humans would never put up with conditions that cows gladly endure for blades of grass and the occasional lick of a salt block.

Clara’s baby
2012 herd

Jenny and Daisy

Another Girl!

After many weeks of waiting, Clara finally calved Monday evening. Here is a pic of the little one!

My Own T.V. Show

A recent conversation over mini wheats on a Thursday morning:
Grant: “I don’t want to go to school!”
Me: “You only have two days until Spring Break.”
Grant: “I should invent a time machine to take me forward to Saturday. Wait, then I would get zeros for today and tomorrow. (Incoherent mumbling) I guess I’ll have to create a fast-growing clone and then invent a time machine.
Me: “Why can’t you just fake a tummy ache like normal children?!”

Because I don’t have normal children. On most days I feel more like the director of a reality T.V. show involving the Muppets than a stay-at-home mom of three boys. On the days when crying is unacceptable, I pretend that Grant is Beaker, Sam is Animal and Ian is Kermit. I can even be heard humming the theme song under my breath on a regular basis.

A perfect example would be the very same morning that the above conversation took place. We pulled up to the elementary school and Animal and Kermit both jumped out after placing wet kisses on my cheek. I peeked into the back seat and saw that Kermit had forgotten his lunch box, so I rolled down the window and yelled for them to come back. Kermit ran toward me with arms and legs flailing wildly while Animal missed the curb and smacked face-first into the passenger side window.
I waited patiently while the door handle was half-heartedly pulled a dozen times and uncontrolled laughter pelted the truck from outside. Shaking my head, I rolled down the window and handed the lunch box to the two figures who were now panting and bent in half laughing with fingers pointed at each other.
Then it started to rain.

Beaker noticed that my windshield wiper was standing at a strange angle to the glass and decided that it had to be fixed before the vehicle could proceed. So he got out and worked on reattaching the wiper blade, ignoring the long line of vehicles waiting behind us. I waved apologetically to the cars that sped around us, apparently they could not see the humor in my situation.
Thankfully my show does not have audience feedback. I doubt it could be heard over the chaos anyway.

Watering the Dead Wood

You know those moon-sized piles of dead brush you see in fields? The ones that slowly grow bigger each season until someone finally douses them with gasoline and sets a blaze akin to a small nuclear explosion?
I bet you never think past the initial burning phase of those piles do you? In fact, you probably wonder why those lazy ranchers don’t just flick a match and get it over with.
Cause a fire like that don’t burn for only one day. Or two. Or three.
They can smoulder for a week! Who has the time?!
Apparently I do.
On a recent Saturday, my proactive hubby called the sheriff’s office and reported we were going to burn. Then he spent the remainder of the day watching our pile shoot flames 20 feet in the air.
The weekend weather was perfect, but in typical Texas fashion, it was not content to stay that way. The weather man reported that a high wind advisory would be in effect for Monday. So every able-bodied man in the house left the only female to prevent the still-smoking pit from catching the county on fire.
Andy had left several sections of hose hooked up at the stock-tank for me to soak the embers, so I headed out at 8 am. I was slightly distracted by the small black newborn calf standing by Jenny, but after 15 minutes of picture taking, I continued on my trek to the still-smoking brush pile.
I pressed the handle for the sprayer and… nothing happened.
Crud.
I made the long trek back up to the house to fetch another sprayer, then traveled back down to the pasture. I began twisting the broker sprayer and…it wouldn’t come off the hose.
Bugger.
So I walked, again, back up to the house to grab another hose section and traveled back to the connection between the line and the final hose. I set about twisting the metal ring and…it wouldn’t come loose.
You have got to be freaking kidding me.
I spent the next 30 minutes yelling at the hoses but they refuse to release their hostages. I finally decided to head back to the house for reinforcements.
I ransacked Andy’s tool drawers and climbed the kitty ladder into the crawl space. A person standing in the garage would have heard mumbling and seen giant rings of hose flying out of a cave in the garage. I wasn’t sure how many I needed so… I took all six of them.
I fired up the tractor and lassoed the coils to the roll bar while filling the bucket with every tool I could think of. I reved the engine and hauled tail back down to the pasture and set about re-running the acre-long hose line down to the burn pile.
After 2 hours of soaking the dead wood, I looked at my clock and realized that I had wasted 3 1/2 hours on a project that Andy promised would take “5 minutes.”
I have a theory about why farmers and ranchers are struck by lightning. It’s not the fact that they speed around on giant metal tractors trying to outrun the coming storm. Or because they are sprinting through severe storms trying to open the barn for terrified livestock.
It’s because of the foul language.
I’m not sure you can be a rancher/farmer and not have a potty mouth. Fighting to control a mother nature who prides herself on being a libertarian is like asking a room full of ex-cons attending anger management classes to return the opened electronic device to Target without a receipt.
Impossible.
However long you think something is gonna take out here in the boonies- add 5 hours, tweezers, an extra box of band-aids and patches for the inevitable tears in your brand new jeans.

Perspective has you asking what I am fussing about, but this pile was actually 26 feet wide x 83 feet long x 7 feet high.

It’s a Girl!

Just a short post to let everyone see the pictures of the first calf of 2012 born last night! This is our first Lim-Flex baby and we are so excited! Since this one is a girl, we are keeping her. The boys have named her “Daisy”. The little one belongs to Jenny and Clara should be calving anytime now!

Field Surgeon

I have a deep, dark secret that I am ready to reveal to the world.
You might want to sit down for this…
I hate the smell of ham.
It’s not like I dislike the smell of ham. The pungent fumes will actually leave me in a fetal position on the floor it there is no one around to see.
Why you ask?
Well, you may not actually care but I am going to tell you anyway…
It all started the fall of my freshman year in college, in biology lab, with a fetal pig named Pinky. The dissection was cool and exciting until about the third week in when my brain began to associate the smell of ham and formaldehyde as inseparable aromas.
While I have always cringed away from the memory of that experience, I found myself needing to face the past recently; on a day that involved me picking up Sam and his teacher informing me that my child had somehow impaled himself with a pencil. Upon inspection we could see that the pencil lead was still embedded deep under the skin and something was going to have to be done about it.
Now it’s not a Saturday around here without me having to dig some sort of sharp object out of somebody’s finger or a tick outta someone’s head. A little squeezing, a handy pair of tweezers and all is well with the world.
The problem with pencil lead?
It breaks into a million tiny pieces whenever you try to touch it.
So while my child wiped away the tears streaming down his face, I had to retrieve something from the dusty corners of my closet. Something I never thought I would ever have to see again.
My dissection kit.
Now I’m sure you can imagine Sam’s reaction when I approached the kitchen counter with the kit and opened it to reveal a scalpel, skin scissors, and all of their torturous looking friends. Like me, Sam has a very active imagination so the horrors dancing in his brain were apparent on his face. 
Imagine my surprise when he begged me to cut him open rather than going to the doctor. It is a heady thing when someone trusts you enough to hold still while you perform surgery on them. Now in all fairness, I had already showed him that the skin covering the lead was white and dead. Still, he had to keep himself perfectly steady as I needed both of my hands to cut and peel away the skin with two instruments. With wide-eyed brothers looking on, he screamed “that didn’t even hurt!” as soon as the culprit was dislodged. He was a brave soldier with a story that would last him a lifetime.
And me? Well, I scored major cool-mom points that day my friends.

I don’t need no stinking doctor! (that must be said with an accent to sound evil 🙂