"Spring Storm"

 

Iggy crawled out of his bedroll. He had been layin' there for several hours listenin' to that damned wind howl. He tried to look out of the window of the bunkhouse, but the it was plumb covered with a layer of ice and snow.

Well, he thought, we done the right thing yesterday. The weatherman had said that there was gonna be a blizzard, and had issued stockmans warnings for all of southeastern Wyoming.

He and the others had gone out and rounded up the cows and taken them to a corner of the big pasture. There they had taken turns riding through the cows and cutting out the ones that looked like they would have their calves within the next week.

Instead of taking the heavies to the calving pasture as they normally would, they took them to the house and put them in the large corrals next to the barns.

That way when a cow had a calf one of the fellers could drag the calf into the barn and the cow would most generally follow her baby right into a pen and be locked in before she knew what had happened to her.

The pair would remain there until the weather got better, or if it was a long storm there would come the time when that calf would be the oldest in the barn and if a new baby needed the spot, he and his mother would be kicked back out into another corral with other new mothers and their babies.

It seemed kinda mean to have to push a baby only a few hours old back out into the cold, but there wasn't always enough barn space for all of them.

Sides, Iggy knew that if that baby got dried off and got hisself up and got some milk in his belly, why that little critter was good to go. They are mighty tough little boogers if they get some milk in them, and there was another cold little critter a shiverin' and a waitin' for the space.

Anyway, they had got them cows in and they had taken turns goin' out to the corral and checking for new babies every 2 hours all night. There was 4 new little critters and their mothers in the barn and everthing was workin' out pretty good.

But there was somethin' a worryin' Ol Iggy.

Yesterday as they was bringin' the heavies in, he had seen a cow with a new calf. It was too young to walk to the corrals or Iggy would have brought them along. The storm hit so quick that Iggy didn't have a chance to go back after that cow and calf.

That old cow was a good one though and she had found a gully to have her baby in and they would have some protection. He had felt that little critters tummy and was sure that it had got some milk in it's gizzard. It would probably be alright. If there had been time, Iggy would have gone out with a pickup and a calf sled and brought them in.

A calf sled is a little bitty corral just big enough for a small calf to stand up in, but tall enough that he can't jump out. It is on sled runners and Iggy would hook it behind the pickup and put the baby calf in it.

Then he would bawl like a calf and the cow would come over and smell her baby in that sled. Iggy would quietly get in the pickup and start drivin' real slow, and most generally the old cow would just follow along right behind, and he could lead her right into the corrals at the house and all would be hunky-dorry!

Well the storm come up too quick and the wind was outta the wrong direction. Iggy knew that old cow, no matter how good a Mommer she was, would never follow the sled facing into that storm. There was nothing he could do, but hope she took good care of her baby, and he would do what he could in the morning.

Well sir, it was morning alright and from the sound of that damned wind last night it had been a wooly booger!! Iggy got dressed and walked out the door of the bunkhouse and into knee deep snow, and that was on the level. Why hell there was drifts 6 feet deep between the house and the barn. Iggy knew right then that little calf out there in the pasture was in trouble.

If the snow hadn't been so deep he coulda drove out there and found that baby and if it was cold he would put on the floor of his pickup and turned the heater up to broil. He would then drive around and check the rest of the critters in the pasture which usually took about an hour. In that time that calf would be pretty much thawed out and when he dropped it back by it's mommer, it would be ready for breakfast.

That shore wasn't gonna happen this morning though. There was a 8 foot drift in front of the garage door and if he could get the pickup out he wouldn't get out of the yard.

Dammit, there just wasn't much he could do. He and the others went about feeding and caring for the critters in the barns and corrals. When that was done they went to the cookhouse and had breakfast. When breakfast was done they stood around and talked about the storm, but Iggy couldn't stay. He still had that calf on his mind.

"Well, By Gawd there was still a chance!" he muttered. He would just have to do it the old timer's way. He saddled Cooter. He shore wished Alpo was around. Alpo woulda handled what Iggy had in mind without any hesitation. Now Cooter was gonna be a fine pony someday, but he hadn't learned to trust Iggy the way Alpo did.

Iggy would just have to do the best he could with the only horse he had available. The others were somewhere out in pasture in the storm. They headed out into the storm towards where Iggy had last seen the cow and calf. It was tough going as the snow was deep and drifted. Iggy was glad that Cooter was young and strong.

It was just as well to have this young gelding after all. Alpo was gittin' old like Iggy and although he would have given every ounce of his strength he might not have made this trip and lived to tell of it.

It was about a mile to where Iggy had seen that pair last night and he sure hope that the cow hadn't drifted in the storm. The calf would not have been able to follow her and Iggy would never be able to find the calf under all this snow. It was still snowin' and blowin' and Iggy could hardly see where he was going.

"Lord, if you ain't too busy right now, I could sure use a little help in finding them two!" Iggy thought to himself.

Iggy and Cooter kept going into that wind and after a short time it seemed like maybe it was lettin' up a little. Then the wind almost died clear down and there in front of them was the gully and there was the cow.

"Hot Damn, Cooter there they are! Thank you Sir, ya done it agin!" cried Iggy!

Iggy slid off of his horse and waded through the snow to where the cow was standing. She was covered with snow and ice clung to her hair. Beside her was a small mound of snow. Iggy rushed over and began brushing the snow away. There was the calf all curled into a tight knot, cold and stiff as could be.

"Damn!" muttered Iggy. He shook the calf, but there was no response. He reached down and lifted the little calf's eyelid as a last hope. There was a still a tiny twinkle in that critter's eye. It was still alive if just barely. There might still be a chance.

"Thank you Sir!! I'll take it from here!!" Iggy yelled into the returning storm.

Now comes the hard part Iggy thought to himself. I got to git this cold, stiff, little critter up astraddle of a horse that don't have the least idea of what I am doing. Then I got to keep both of them still till I can drag my carcass up onto that horse and all of that going on in 2 feet of snow.. " Hell, Nothing to it!!" he chuckled.

Well it warn't purty, but he got it done. He was so damned proud of Cooter. He just turned his head, sniffed that calf, and looked at Iggy as if to say "Well, if you think this is neccessary, I guess it is okay with me."

Iggy suspected he might have had some help from above, but he shore wasn't gonna argue. They started back to the house. The cow would not move more and a few yards from spot where her calf was supposed to be for a couple of days. Iggy was sure that he could either bring the calf back to her if it lived, or get the cow to the house. Sides he would know that cow anywhere now. She was a good ol Mommer, and he wouldn't forget her.

Once Iggy got the calf back to the house they had a hot box that they would put the little critter in. It had infra-red heat bulbs in it and would have that calf warmed up in a hurry.

Iggy would swipe some milk from the other cows in the barn that had calves during the night and either get the calf to suck or would put a hose down it's throat and pour milk into the calf that way. The little critter needed a jumpstart bad!!!

On the way back to the house, the little critter kinda stirred and began to flop around. Ol Cooter, just kinda looked back at the calf, rolled his eyes, and then continued on struggling through the snow.

"Alpo woulda been plumb proud of you, young feller." Iggy said softly to the horse.."Mighty Proud!"

Iggy began to rub the calf as he rode along. He needed to get the little critter's circulation going. As they went a long he spoke to the cold little heifer. "You know, you po'chaince little rascal, if it hadn't been for that little tiny twinkle in your eye, I would a left you for dead. If me and the Lord can drag you through this, I'm gonna call you Twink!!!

When Iggy got back to the house with the calf, he gave it to the other fellers. They put it in the hot box while Iggy got out of his wet clothes.

He went down to the barn in a little bit to check on Twink. The calf was beginning to thaw out a little and was shivering so hard she was shaking the hot box.

Iggy got a coke bottle and went and found a cow in one of the pens that looked like it had plenty of milk to spare. He crawled into the pen and moved quietly along side the cow. He reached slowly for her udder.

Now that old cow knew durn well that ugly galoot wasn't her calf and she kicked at his hand. Iggy again moved in and stuck his shoulder into her side and tried again. After several kicks and a lot of cussing, Iggy finally got that pop bottle full of milk.

He crawled into the hot box with Twink. He moved her around until her head was in his lap and stuck a finger in her mouth. She had been so cold that the inside of her mouth and tongue were cold to the touch.

She instinctively started sucking on his finger. After a few seconds he substituted the bottle with a black rubber nipple on it in her mouth. Twink knew right away that wasn't her Momma, and tried to spit the nipple out. Iggy kept her mouth open and squirted some milk in it. Now that may not be Momma, but she knew that the milk tasted familiar and she was hungry.

Hunger quickly overcame pride and Twink tied into that bottle like a vacuum sweeper. Iggy felt the calf's legs and feet and they were warming up nicely. They were not frozen and stiff as he had feared, but her ears near the ends were icy cold.

"Well, little gal, you ain't gonna be hard to pick out of the herd next year. You're gonna have some mighty short ears when you grow up, but you're gonna do fine." Iggy said quietly.

When Twink had finished the bottle, Iggy crawled out of the hot box and closed the door. He stood there looking at the hot box and listening to the steady breathing coming from inside.

"Well Lord, I think we done alright with that little critter after all." Iggy thought to himself.

A booming voice came through the howling storm. "Yup, we done alright. So long Iggy!"

And Iggy replied, "See ya down the trail, Sir!"

4/23/01