All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in the Nebraska Sandhills...
The reports of snowstorms on the northern side of this big weather front reminded me of spring blizzards during my childhood in northern Nebraska. In every blizzard, my parents worked terribly hard caring for the cattle, but in a spring blizzard, there were the newborn calves to worry about, too.
I remember waking one snowy morning and realizing that school must have been cancelled because my mom had let me sleep so late. When I stumbled into the bathroom, my mom was bent over the bathtub, rubbing the limbs of a nearly-frozen newborn calf, trying to revive his circulation and his will to live.
Bringing calves into the house was a desperate measure, of course, but every effort had to be made because the calves were the income of our family.
I remember calves that thawed out, had a little warm milk poured into them and recovered enough to clatter around on their hard little hooves. My mom had some baby gates to keep a calf corralled in the back hallway until he was returned to his mother. I remember Mama putting newspapers on the floor, but I imagine there were some messes to clean up.
Hopefully the mother cow still remembered and claimed her little calf after he had disappeared for a few hours. If she didn't, she had to be brought into the barn and persuaded by various means to let the calf nurse, and eventually she would probably accept him as her own again. (Cows aren't too bright.)
Meanwhile the blizzard raged on and my parents tried to get hay to all the cattle and see about their water as well as watch over the pregnant cows and the newborns. With luck, maybe the tractor started as it should, and no mechanical pieces jammed or snapped and no snowdrifts impeded their work.
The blizzard took its toll on the people who were exposed to it as well as the animals. Of course they bundled up as warmly as possible, but the stress of the cold temperatures and the wind were exhausting, as was the effort of wading through snow all day and trying to work with cold-numbed hands.
They checked the cows again before they went to bed and they got up in the night and checked them again. If help was needed by a cow or calf, they did whatever was necessary in the cold darkness, and with little sleep, they began these gruelling efforts again the next morning.
And there were times when tremendous effort was made but the blizzard still claimed the lives of some little calves.
These are the reasons that I worried about the ranchers today when March roared in with a frigid blast of snow and wind.
Note: This was originally part of another post, but I made an editorial decision that it should be separated.