Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old18 - Still Hanging in there and I really think she's Enjoying Her Life

Well it has been much too long since I’ve posted a blog, and it’s been a longer than normal several months for me as well! Does that ever happen in your life? Time just seems to stand still and fast forward all at the same time – no doubt that’s a sign of age, and I suppose approaching that ‘half a century mark’ gives me a bit of an excuse for a blip in my blog posts.

Life is just a big old box of chocolates as old Gump’s Mom would say, of late it’s been mostly those tart cherry filled chocolates that I don’t much like! One after another seems to come my way some days, and those nasty ones that you can’t even identify what’s actually in the middle, they really make me cringe! Yuck, just what is supposed to be likeable about some of those confections? I much prefer nut-filled chocolates, identifiable nuts (gee, if only humans were!) -- a good solid crunch to accompany my enjoyment of chocolate.

And I like the events of life to be a good solid crunch, things I can identify and enjoy, rather than chew on a while and decide to just spit out. Some of life we need to spit out and go on down the road – it’s just a bit hard to recognize those times and we chew too long, while with unacceptable chocolate confections we make the decision just real quick, a few chews and we’re done if it’s just not satisfying those taste and texture buds – it’s one big YUCK.

I sold a bull recently to some folks and they came by and picked him up, which was a good thing, I’m always happy when one of my bulls finds a forever home. But what struck me most, was the lady buying the bull recognized my ‘Old 18’ cow at pasture, she had read my blog about her from last October and guessed correctly that she was Old 18.

Old 18 has shuffled along this past year with no complaints about finding herself sometimes alone, sometimes with young heifers, or young bulls, and both young groups seem to irritate her at times, and sometimes she’s with the whole herd. Trying to rotate pastures and keep this old girl happy and close by creates times when most anything can happen. When she was first with the large bull crop of calves at weaning this fall, she actually seemed to enjoy that. There were two bull calves that were often found resting right at her side, enjoying the comfort of her age and gender, I have no doubt. I could tell Old 18 liked being needed by these weanling bulls, and that was a good period for her and me.

Yesterday, winter set in and left a calling card. We had probably 5 inches plus of snow, which is quite unusual for deep East Texas. The last time I remember a snow that actually stuck and was significant was 1973, I was in junior high in Woodville, Texas about 10 miles south of where I now live.

Regardless of the weather, Old 18 had it all worked out – she had been fed her special ration; she was tucked up in the shed by the big barn here close to the house. But, I put a kink in all that inadvertently. Last night the main cow herd was fairly vocal about this weird snow falling, and I, in sympathy and worry, opened up a gate and let them come on here to the pasture by the house, which also happens to be where Old 18 is always hobbling around.

These much stronger, more agile, cows very quickly usurped Old 18’s position under the shelter of the lean-to shed of the big barn. At about 10PM yesterday evening I checked everyone – as in, I buzzed around in my coveralls in the Ranger trying to see them all, and the windshield was clogging with snow, and I was afraid I could even run over a sleeping calf the evening was so blurry -- so it was a new check-on-the-cows experience. But, I did find Old 18 all the way down the hill with a small group of cows and couldn’t imagine that she would have gone so far from the shelter of the shed, or the wind break of the barn.

This morning Old 18 is not moving so well – she’s as stiff and slow as I’ve ever seen her. And yes I can understand that the colder weather likely has her stiffer and in more pain with her hip, but I think it’s more, and I think I see her faltering much more when she walks. Last night was a trial for her I have no doubt, and she’s appreciated all day every special thing brought to just her to eat, and she’s appreciated having the shed by the barn all to herself again to get out of the cold wind. But, nonetheless, this evening she was all the way to the fence line where I moved the main herd, sitting down and looking toward them, and I imagine wishing she was with them.

I don’t know anymore whether how I handle her age and infirmities is the best approach, the happiest approach, for her – maybe no one does as most old cows are sent to an auction barn. But, I think again of our elderly human loved ones that are in poor health, as I recalled last October when I spoke of Old 18, and I again wonder at our care of an elderly cow, or an elderly dog, or even a new young pup – in comparison to some folks’ care of their elderly and infirm human family.

Without a doubt, my Old 18 enjoys her time with the herd, and maybe even wishes she was with them regularly, she probably does – but her hip wouldn’t have survived all the walking and tussling that goes on regularly. Would she have cared? Does she care? Would she just rather be always with her peers no matter the trials of each day? I will never know – because I can’t ask her, I can only watch her and try to figure out what she needs from day to day.

But, we can ask our human family what they need, what they want, what makes them happy. And we should ask and listen with real sincerity, and we should try to make that answer happen if we can, or do the best we can in that direction. I imagine if Old 18 could talk, and listen, she would likely understand why she can’t be with the main herd all the time, that doesn’t mean she won’t sit at the fence and watch them and wish she was with them.

Too many elderly humans in this world are unappreciated by their children, are not respected for the trials of life they’ve endured to reach that elderly age of Old 18. That is a sad thing to get our heart and mind around, when you watch simple cows and their need and wish for companionship and attention from both their human caretakers and their herd peers, and the absolutely unrelated babes that find comfort with them -- babes that want only their company -- not some empty emotionless benefice from the elderly cow when it leaves this world for the next.

The understanding of the instinct for comfort and love seems quickly lost in humans when their elderly become fragile, as though their higher power of intellect gets in the way of the basics of the mammal’s instinct for family and protectiveness, this higher intellect leaves us with a human more like a cow from a breed that has little trust, runs from you, and hogs the trough – not that any cow wouldn’t hog the trough given the chance.

But, hey, humans are supposed to be of a higher intellect? Why is it that this base instinct of a cow to hog the trough, to not give a care about whether the cow next to them is their Mom or not, or their sister, just hogging up all the food they can becomes paramount, becomes so often today the higher power of humans? What does it say about them? About us?  I really like my cows, they are a fine bunch of girls, and it’s really cool when I see daughters long since weaned hanging out in the pasture with their Mom’s……..