The calving schedule worked great... until it didn’t

For as long as I’ve been raising cattle, I have always turned the bulls in with the cows so that my spring calving season will begin around Feb. 1. There has only been one year where that turned out to be a mistake, thanks to an early February blizzard that stayed on for weeks. Now, I can make that two years when it was a mistake.

The first cow to calve had a bouncing baby heifer a couple of days before the first for February  (remember I said “around” Feb. 1). Many others joined in on the fun over the next few days, and before long I was having three to seven calves each day and everything was going even better than expected. Heck, Mother Nature was even cooperating with little precipitation and only a couple of really cold nights. Then … it happened.

Friday was unseasonably warm, and after feeding and checking all the newborns, I figured it was time to catch up on some jobs I’d been delaying all winter. It was shirtsleeve weather, and when the day was finished, I felt a little achy but chalked it up to overexertion for an old man. 

Saturday, when I woke up I could barely get out of bed. I was running a high fever and feeling as sick as I’ve felt in years. Outside, a coating of freezing rain had fallen overnight, so I struggled to get dressed to begin the morning ritual. 

“Are you all right?” Judy asked.

I could utter only two words, “No. Flu.”

My wife offered to feed, but I wanted to be a hero, so I staggered out the door and fed everything that morning before coming back home and collapsing in bed for the rest of the day. The next morning I was even worse and had resigned myself to allow Judy the role of hero when I heard her moaning from the other side of the bed.

“You OK?” I muttered.

“Nope. Flu.”

For the next five days (one of which included Valentine’s Day), I fed the cattle each morning and Judy checked cows each afternoon. Our conversations were limited to one- or two-syllable grunts such as “Uh-huh, huh-uh, yeah, naw, I dunno, I guess,” and “maybe.” 

Today was my first trip to the coffee shop in a week, and the oldest guy in the group told me he had rented a suit and blocked out a couple of days on his calendar for my visitation and funeral. “Is it safe for me to return the suit, or should I hold on to it for a few more days?” he asked. “I can get the deposit back if I haven’t worn it.”

I thanked him for his concern.

At this point it’s beginning to appear that both Judy and I are going to survive the great flu epidemic of 2018, but I’m starting to toy with the idea of a 2019 spring calving season that would start around…say…May 1.

Copyright (c) 2018, Jerry Crownover

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