By Baxter Black: Guest Columnist
It was a case of naked dedication.
Dick had been to the state meeting. His committee had run late and it was after midnight when he got back to the ranch.
They were practicing fall calving in his part of the Umpqua Valley of western Oregon. Rains had been making things mucky. As he mounted the steps, he stopped in his tracks. There in a pile, under the harsh porch light, were his wife’s clothes. Right down to the daintys.
He looked around — he wasn’t sure why he looked around, he just did.
Earlier that evening at twilight, Mo — short for Maureen, his wife — had made the heifer check. She found none in the process of calving and was about to go to the house when she heard a plaintive bawl down by the pond. Working her way thorough the fresh cow pies and mud, shuck, she called it, she saw a 2-day-old black baldy calf. He was standing elbow deep in the dark water.
Mo looked down at her tennis shoes, looked up at the drizzling rain, gritted her teeth and stepped into the shallow end. The sucking mud pulled at her shoes as she grabbed the calf’s tail. He tried to go forward, deeper into the pool, so she pulled back. His tailbones cracked like someone shuffling cards.
Unable to move the calf with brute force she used her female brain. Mo straddled the calf and by lifting his legs one step at a time, she backed him the 10 feet to the water’s edge. Along the way, he pulled her down to her knees more than once, but eventually quit struggling. The calf’s legs, neck and belly were coated with thick mud, as were Mo’s extremities. They looked like chocolate figurines you’d find in the Easter basket.
As the cold little calf wriggled and shook, Mo did her best with her hands to scrape the thick muck from their bodies. It was not without the occasional slip, slap, splash and drag. Using a water hose she got him clean enough, to where she hoped his mama would recognize him.
Lifeguard duties over, soaked to the skin and shivering, she unpeeled on the porch, washing each barnyard-stained garment inside and out with the hose, and left them in a pile.
At daylight the next morning the hired man showed up early. He came to the house to talk to Dick. Standing on the porch he noticed the sodden pile of clothing. Women’s clothing, he observed. He looked around. He wasn’t sure why he looked around, he just did.