Hi, I’m Wendy (Frank and Marilynn Carr’s youngest daughter). We have moved back from Alaska recently and are staying here on the ranch for a season. I will be writing quite a few of the LBR blog posts to keep you informed of happenings on the ranch. This first story is close to my heart.
My kids have grown up in Alaska and haven’t ever experienced calving season. I have been looking forward to this time of year at LBR because I have so many fond memories of helping my Dad with calving and the excitement I had when I got to see a baby calf born for the first time as a child. I have excitedly anticipated seeing the awe on my girls’ face as they see a new life come into this world. This calving season started out not quite how I had imagined it.
My middle daughter went out with Grandpa to feed the cows hay one morning a few weeks ago. To their disappointment, they found a cow on the ground with her feet flat out in back of her. She was unable to get up, so Grandma called the vet to come out and have a look at her. After further inspection our fears were affirmed that she had most likely broken her back and was paralyzed. We tried to keep this cow alive as long as we could in order to give the calf inside of her more time to grow (the calf was approximately 5-6 weeks from due date). Grandpa packed the cow hay and water morning and night and got her into a warm shed. During this time I tried to keep my girls away from the shed so they wouldn’t get too attached to her, knowing in my mind what most likely would lie ahead for this cow. My efforts were to no avail as she was such a sweet tempered animal and would let my girls come right up to her and pet her on the head all the while sniffing them all over. After about a week, it was apparent that the cow was starting to go downhill and we would no longer be able to keep her alive. Grandma, Grandpa, and I tried to comfort the girls by letting them know that if the calf survived, they would have a bottle calf to take care of.
Our vet came out and performed a C-section with an audience of three hopeful girls looking on. When Grandpa pulled a living, breathing heifer calf out of the incision squeals of delight from three excited girls were the first sounds this premature calf heard. My girls asked the vet what he thought they should name her and he said, “Lucky”. However they settled on Grace, because by God’s grace she was still alive. I kept the girls distracted by putting them to work taking care of the calf, drying her off and getting her into the warm up room. When I came back to check on them, I could hear my oldest daughter’s angelic voice singing “Amazing Grace,” and when I peaked in the warm up box, Grace had three loving girls giving her all kinds of attention. My youngest hugged Grace and said, “Mom, I was just telling Grace about the song Amazing Grace, because she is pretty amazing you know!” Later, when we headed in to heat up some frozen colostrum for Grace, my youngest looked up at me and said, “If cows could go to heaven, I bet Grace’s Mom would be in heaven looking down saying, ‘I’m so thankful my daughter is being taken care of so well and that she is in good hands.’ ” Oh man, break my heart. Inside I was thinking, “This calf better live or else we are going to have three… well… make that four broken hearts.”
Grandma and the girls went back out to feed Grace but she wouldn’t suck, so we had to tube her. Hours and hours were spent trying to get Grace to suck. Grandpa is the ranch expert at getting calves to suck, but Grace wouldn’t even suck for him. Two days had gone by since Grace was born and each feeding Grandpa or I would try everything to get her to suck but would end in frustration as we tubed her. Sunday morning came and I went out to feed Grace only to find her breathing raspy and having heavy diarrhea. She just lay with her head on the straw and didn’t even lift her head to greet me. I knew pneumonia was taking over her little underdeveloped lungs and the signs didn’t look good. I tubed her and then went to feed the bulls their hay. As I was tossing the square bales down into the manger, tears welled up in my eyes. “Why am I so emotional about this calf?” I asked myself. “It’s not like you haven’t seen other calves die. It’s because she is special. She was born under traumatic circumstances and the girls got to see it all. Their little hearts will be broken if she dies. No, she won’t die. She can’t die. God, please don’t let her die!” I thought to myself as I dropped to my knees on the haystack and went to bat in prayer for that little calf. I came in and told my Mom that Grace was not doing well and we both cried and then went to church and asked for prayer for Grace.
A week went by with our vet prescribing different things to help Grace fight her health battles. Grandma made the ten mile trip into the vet office for three days in a row to get the different prescriptions that we hoped each time would do the trick to bring Grace back around. During this week, the cold dipped into subzero temperatures and we were bringing calves in and out of the other warm up box just long enough to dry off so their ear and tail tips wouldn’t freeze. Even a set of twins looked big compared to Grace! We prayed for Grace at the dinner table and each girl would say a prayer for Grace to get healthy and to learn to suck before bed each night. I continually asked God to grant my little girls the wishes of their heart. Another Sunday morning came and Grace’s little lungs had finally gotten over the pneumonia and her system was finally able to process the milk correctly, but she still had not sucked. Our church family amazingly remembered to ask about Grace and again prayed for her. Grandpa went out to feed her after church and came back to report, God had answered our prayers! She had finally sucked for this dedicated cowman after 9 days! I was the next to feed her, but nope, she wouldn’t suck for me. I thought how fitting it is that she will only suck for Grandpa. He is the one who got up with her every night so she could be fed every three hours all while calving out cows in subzero temperatures, getting bull data ready, photographing, and videoing bulls for the web site. He had a million other things going on and at the same time he was sick himself, yet he took care of that calf like a mother would take care of her child.
Well, another week has gone by, several more days of Grandpa coaxing Grace to nurse and now my girls have finally gotten the desire of their hearts! Grace is an eager beaver when it comes to nursing! She follows my girls around butting them along the way and bawls at them whenever they leave her side. The cousins came to visit for the weekend, and they all enjoyed taking turns bottle feeding Grace.
As I look out the window and watch this little calf bucking around and kicking up her heels, I am thankful for Grace, not only for Grace, the calf, but for grace from above. The grace that God gives to help us make it through the hard times, the grace that God provided on that cross at Calvary, the grace to be able to pray to a loving God that cares enough to grant three little girls the desires of their heart.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Then when we first begun.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see.