When a cow dies too soon

Lindsay Murdock

She was born blind. We didn’t know it until day three. Ian kicked himself for not noticing sooner, but he shouldn’t have. At least he noticed. Period.

She lived in our laundry room (aka the mud room ... which is also known as the entry to our home) for two days. She brought hope to Mack and Mason’s world. She even brought adventure of sorts because it wasn’t the normal that any of us were used to. She brought a bunch of extra love I didn’t know they had in them. She also brought a huge mess, but then again, don’t we all?

By the second morning I was a bit exasperated by her faint mooing sound — which sounded more like a cry for help or maybe even a desperate plea for pain medication; regardless, it was not music to my ears. And the attempts she made to get to her feet over and over again were painful to watch. I was discouraged by my own problems, miscommunications and exhaustion, and her lack of strength seemed to pull me down even further.

The boys hovered over her, petted her, read her a book or two, did their homework next to her and covered her up — over and over again. I watched with sadness, and even a tinge of regret, knowing she probably wouldn’t live and their efforts were somewhat pointless.

I detest watching others suffer, including cows. And especially the baby calves. I had little hope. Even as I tried to muster up a smile or words of encouragement for the boys, I found myself hopeless. Ian would come in and feed her, trying to convince himself that she was doing better, and I would just watch. I wanted to care. I wanted to nurture her, but I just couldn’t make myself. I was so stuck in my little pity party of dealing with the messes that seemed to be piling (literally) all over the house whenever I turned my head that one little dying calf was the least of my concerns.

And then, late in the afternoon while I was washing the dirty dishes that had been stacked in the sink since breakfast, there was silence. The mooing had come to an end and her body stopped moving, and that is when I did the most pathetic thing of all. I sat down on the floor of the laundry room and just stared at her. I was lifeless, and so was she. And for the next 20 minutes I simply sat there and cried — wishing for something different for both of us.

A normal rancher’s wife probably would have been the one nursing it back to life instead of wishing it was in the barn. Or perhaps she wouldn’t be content waiting for her husband to come in to deal with it because she would be in her element of being the “nurturing caregiver.” In fact, I’m certain that an average rancher’s wife probably wouldn’t have sighed a deep sigh of relief when the mooing stopped. A typical rancher’s wife isn’t me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to live this life I’ve been given. The disasters. The accidents. The fights for life. The job that isn’t a job, but a lifestyle. The life that requires so much of me even after a full day of teaching when I feel like I have little left to give. The life I’ve lived for 15 years, but still don’t have down to a science.

Hopefully, someday, I’ll be the one covering the sick calf with blankets, and propping its head up with towels. Someday, I’ll be the one nurturing the heck out of the sweet little calf that has made its way into my home like my husband and boys were doing all weekend long. Yes, someday, I’ll be more about them and the bigger picture, and less about me.

Yes, someday will be sooner than later.

Lindsay Murdock lives in Echo and teaches in Hermiston.

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