Wind, incessant wind; it blew, and blew, and blew until the mournful sound of it was burned into your consciousness and you felt that if it didn't quit you would probably go crazy. The cows however just turned their backs and shut their eyes and stoically waited for it to end.
As we walked through the heifers on our 2 am rounds, trying to keep our backs turned to the wind and slapping our hands against our sides or tucking them under our armpits to warm frozen fingers, I couldn't help but think about the cows down on the creek. The heifers got the luxury of the calving pasture and the big shed behind the house, and any that needed help got calved out inside the barn. The cows however were expected to fend for themselves. All in all they did remarkably well. They were hardy and well adapted to the conditions, and they instinctively knew how to seek the best possible shelter. On a night like this though my heart went out to them and I couldn't seem to get them off my mind, especially old Red. Red was a pet. She would adopt any orphaned calf and love it like it was her own. She was no longer what you would call "a good producer" but her sweet nature and past performance insured that she would have a home with us for as long as she lived.
I knew she was close when I looked at her right before dark and now with the wind increasing and the temperature dropping even further I just couldn't quit worrying about her. Unfortunately there wasn't a darned thing I could do about it until morning.
The old red cow knew her time was close. She had felt the familiar pangs of early labor right after the moon reached its peak. She chewed her cud and listened to the night sounds; a coyote up on the ridge, and another down the draw. She heard the dogs at the ranch barking their answer and she squinted her eyes shut to keep them clear of blowing sand and huddled further intothe greasewood seeking any relief from the wind, and the cold.
Unlike previous calves, which came easily into the world after a few hours of labor and several hard pushes, something was wrong this time. The old red cow had lain and pushed for nearly two hours and the wind and the cold and her age were rapidly taking their toll. When that first light in the east began to push the darkness away she laid her head down to give up. But then she heard the woman's voice. The woman that always spoke kindly and fed her range cubes and scratched her back. She felt the calf being turned and somehow she found the strength and the will to give one more push. This time there was no resistance and the calf came rushing out and gave a little bawl. That magical sound was all she needed to hear. With an effort Red heaved to her feet and began licking her calf, and with each lick her will to live came back. Soon the woman had cradled the calf in her arms, and together they climbed the bank and made their way to the barn, and to warmth and food and new life.