Goatview Farm - The Saint Report



April 6
Wild Cow Milking

(2002) The only way that you will have, at the age of 55, a morning like I had last Monday will be because you have done something terribly wrong with your life. Several things on top of each other, actually.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m., fitfully tossing and unable to go back to sleep, filled with anxiety about how I was ever going to manage to milk my wild cow, Bonnie. Wild horned cow, Bonnie. I knew I wasn't going to do it alone and I was unsure how many people I could expect to respond in any positive way when asked "Could you please come over at about 9 this morning to help me put a rope and nose pliers on a wild horned cow and then hold her by her nostrils while I stick big metal knobs on her horns and milk her out? Or you can put the things on her horns and milk and I will hold if you like!" (It's nice to give your friends options.)

nose pliersI called Deborah first. I think this was the very first time she was delighted to be on her way to town for a pap test.

I then called Gordon who lives closer but lacks Deborah's patience. I wanted the patience because when you are dealing with cows, it is always more productive if you do everything on cow time. Gordon, bless his soul, said he would be glad to help. I guess it was too late for him to quickly schedule a prostate exam.

horn weightBonnie had given birth to her first calf, Peeps, early Easter evening. The birth was remarkably easy and the calf was a nice sturdy little bull. Bonnie was so full of milk that it squirted out every teat with each step she took, but she wasn't about to let me correct the problem and, since she was uncomfortably full, she wouldn't let Peeps nurse, either. Being an inexperienced mother (she was what is called a "first freshener"...which reminds me: don't ever call a woman who has just given birth a "first freshener" to her face), she didn't know what she was doing--the instinctive demands of motherhood were colliding with her instinct for self-preservation, meaning "if it hurts, don't do it." She wouldn't let me touch Peeps, either. And that was where we stood as night fell. Poor Peeps would probably have to wait until morning for his first meal with only trees for shelter. Bonnie was going to get more full during the night and even less receptive to any ideas about milk collection that either Peeps or I might have.

To regress--this was all my fault. When Bonnie was a calf, I started out bottle feeding her, but when I returned her to the field, her mother, May, happily reclaimed her and no more bottles were needed. And a calf that is not bottle fed is usually not very tame. I should have kept Bonnie and May separate, but I was lazy and they seemed happy with the arrangement.

The horns were my fault, too. When Bonnie was old enough for dehorning, I was too old to outrun her and again, I guess I just got lazy.

Anyway, the chickens had returned to roost and there we were with a suspicious and dangerous cow who liked cleaning her calf and gazing at it with love and admiration but who obviously thought that letting it nurse was really icky and letting me get personal was even ickier. The more full her udder became, the less she wanted anyone or anything to touch it. The longer the calf went without food, the weaker and less insistent he would become.

Gordon and I watched and formulated our plan as the awkward Peeps tried and tried to get a meal from his reluctant Mama. This is what we would do: we would rope her and then get the pliers on her nose and I would hold the pliers and put the horn knobs on at the same time and then, when Bonnie was less lethal, Gordon would hold the pliers and I would put Peeps to nurse on one side of Bonnie and I'd milk out the other side plus get anything Peeps missed. And that is what we did, only there were a few false steps. Like you don't want to miss with that rope. Cows may not be the sharpest tools in the shed, but even they have a learning curve.

Anyway, I bled a little and was kicked over once, Gordon didn't bleed at all but he did get his hand sort of sprained, Peeps got a good meal from Mama and a bottle on the side, and the currently emptied Bonnie will have to pummel or trample me to death or give me a concussion with those horn weights now, since goring is no longer an option.

All in all, I have to say the morning, if difficult, was successful. Which brings us to another sign that my life has run amok: my definition of "successful morning." It used to involve so much more than just not running over a duck in the driveway, digging a grave, or spending time in Emergency. Sigh.

Marilu Henner turns 56 today (1952, Chicago).


Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Marcellinus, Saint Celestine I, Saint Eutychius, Saint Prudentius of Troyes, Saint William of Eskhill, and The Martyrs in Persia.

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© Marilyn Jones 2002-2008