Finally! Papers are graded; all the papers I brought home with me (and a few I collected over the break) are now graded and recorded, tucked safely away for delivery next week. Whew! I spent a lot of time working over the past week, but it wasn’t all work. On Friday, my husband, Chuck, and I went to Helmville to visit our son, Adam. He’s spending a couple months working on a cattle ranch, calving, mostly, and doing whatever else they need him to do. Having not seen him since early January, I was eager to check in on him and see how he was doing.
The drive was lovely; Friday was a sunny but cool day, perfect early spring. We arrived around noon, and Adam took us for a tour of the ranch. It’s a very old ranch with many old buildings, amazing history stored in every nook and cranny. In the old bunkhouse where he and his buddy are staying, they found an old map of western Montana. From 1934, the map did show the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, but it did not show the Hungry Horse Dam because it was not built yet. The logs of the bunkhouse carried names and dates carved into the walls of people from long ago who served in a similar capacity as my son does now. It was eerie and fascinating. Everywhere I looked I saw old tools, trinkets, signs, or markers that others had been there before and left something behind. The buildings are all built of logs, with old chinking between them and unknown hundreds of souls who have sought shelter inside. Except for the barn and the “new” house (new by comparison only), there was no running water indoors. Rustic describes it but doesn’t quite convey the spirit of the place.
We saw chickens, and some roosters who were trying to determine dominance, some skittish fillies, cats, a dog, and cattle, lots of cattle. It’s calving season, actually almost over, so there were baby calves, bigger calves, mama cows, some bulls and a couple steers. There was even a random milk cow that doesn’t really do anything, and an old steer who just likes to hang out with the bulls. A wanna be?
We took Adam to lunch, and then we returned to the ranch for one more look around before we had to leave. Hoping to see a live birth, we happened upon a calf that had been born only minutes before we got there. The little guy lay on the ground, slick and shiny from the goop he’d been floating in and mama cow’s tongue, which kept licking and prodding him. He would attempt to stand, but he could not get all four legs under himself at one time; first the front legs would come up, but the back would buckle, and next time the back legs stayed up, but the front ones folded in. Each time, mama cow would lick a little more, prod him with her nose, and moo loudly at us as if to say, “stay away!”
We took a couple pictures and then left the ranch to come home, but the whole day rejuvenated me. The new life and simplicity of ranch life was reaffirming. The image of that little calf struggling to live–after what can only be assumed to be a rude introduction to his new world–and his attentive, protective mother has stayed with me over the weekend, reminding me of nature’s wonder and the optimism and promise of new life.