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Spring, of a sort, in January

I believe it was the legendary Saint Bride who brought the spring lambs to Ireland. Here, it appears to be the chill of December and January that brings the new calves to our ranges. The calves are like a promise of a spring to come.

At the time when calves suddenly blossom in every pasture, the grazing is poor and the mothers produce just enought milk to satisfy the little ones. The cattlemen like it that way because later, when spring rains have produced rich grass, the cows' milk flow increases and the calves start putting on weight immediately. The calves aren't experienced in matters of dry cold or wet cold weather so they frolic and bunt one another even while the rain is falling. Perhaps -- I do not know -- the miserable weather helps them to become tough and sturdy. Of course we back country people love rain, unless it gets to the point of a slight flood. Usually we complain that we need more rain than we receive.

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I forget who it was who wrote about calves with the sun shining on their little white faces. (Perhaps Will James?) Some days here the sun does shine on the faces of small Hereford calves and they sprawl out on their sides to absord it.

Before the mothers start out to graze they like to leave all the calves in a group. They leave their young with a babysitter. I don't know how the babysitter is chosen -- the cows seem to take turns and it all works out. If one calf lets out a blat of fear the whole herd comes running and roaring. Any predator that might consider itself hungry leaves at once.

I enjoy havin a few head of cattle, just to have them around. To raise animals commercially is not my intention but Cressie, the most belligerent little cow on earth, had a secret. Finally we realized that she had calved, but no one was brave enough to try to find where she had hidden the new one, for Cressie enthusiastically chases every dog, bobcat, coyote, or human out of her vicinity.

In a few days Cressie judged that her child was big and strong enough to come and meet his elders. We happened to be driving in a car along that pasture fence and we saw him for the first time. The car radio was on and the young black calf became instantly alert to this very different sound. His face wore an expression of wisdom.

This face of wisdom is indistinguishable from the face of serenity, and that, in turn, is caused by innocence. He is sure there can be no evil here. Or if it should get invented his mother will fix it. He tells of the goodness of this world whenever he jumps up and down, which is often. He enjoys being airborne and he likes landing on his study hoofs so he can do it all over again. But his greatest pleasure is to coax our enormous pet steer, Calfalier, into playing with him. Calfalier wants to lie down and nap on a sunny day. When he's in this prone position the calf sees the opportunity for attack. He dances around and around the steer, poking at him with his already hard little head.

Finally Calfalier sighs, gets to his knees, laboriously heaves the rest of himself up, and humors the little black pest. Calfalier has an enormous spread of horns, and these he uses with gentleness as if teaching the young what horns might be good for someday. He even begins to enjoy the cavorting young one. The other animals are too sleepy to pay much attention and the cal's mother just waits. She waits for that time when her son will be ready for his nap, for that is when she gives him his bath. Out calf is the most well-washed creature in calfdom for when he isn't playing he's being scrubbed. This causes perfect little marcel waves, very neat and pretty along his neck and shoulders.

Animals are everywhere -- new lambs cavorting in one neighbor's parture; at another neighbor's horse ranch the first foal of the season has been born. Small wild rabbits are just out of the nests, carefully exploring their own huge world. Before long, birds will be nesting. We see a number of young deer in the hills, but it won't be really spring until little froggies start sin ging in the ponds.

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