A Neverending Story
I started this post three times. First: introspective Jenna. Second: “let’s make a joke about it” Jenna. Third: well – this. Just this. Last night/this morning was a doozy. Sick cow. Dark night. Deep cold. Icy cold + darkness = a vile union. Enemy of the livestock herder, the animal farmer. I imagine cold fronts and nightfall approach on tippy-toe, snarl-fingered and cackling, wicked in intent. It’s ridiculous to anthropomorphize the weather – probably – but still.
Throughout the day I knew Rodeo Queen, my little Dexter heifer, was “off” but it seemed her condition wasn’t deteriorating. Illness during the day fools a person into thinking they “have plenty of time” to “deal with it before nightfall” (and yes, I’m actually doing the italics symbol with my fingers as I read this sentence. I haven’t slept much). Do not fool yourself into thinking that an animal’s condition will somehow, magically, remedy itself before nightfall. If there’s something you don’t want to handle during the day, well, then imagine doing it at night. In, say, 25 degree temperatures – just as an example. Taking a, for example, rectal temperature. FOR EXAMPLE.
The forecast that I read in a tank top on Sunday, the same one I rolled my eyes and scoffed at, slamming my computer on weather.com with a chuckle “ice and sleet my A$$” I shouted, to no one in particular – that forecast? It really was correct. So during yesterday’s ice storm I hoped – with extra hope-force – that nothing was really wrong with Rodeo and that her withdrawn, puny behavior was due merely to the weather. I stared out at her all day from the cozy house, watched her huddled and withdrawn from the animals in the middle of a frozen pasture. I was certain that, before nightfall, she’d be better. She wasn’t.
So it was just at the time I would normally cuddle into bed with my book, that I was instead bundled nearly to the point of immobilization, head light strapped to my head, armed with a thermometer and napkins (To clean the thermometer. RECTAL. Ahem). Rodeo, the intrepid invalid, chose to wander into a spot so remote, so thickly ringed with cactus, so obscured by thorny mesquite trees, that I had to army crawl to reach her, pieces of my jacket torn and still hang from spiky limbs. With my head lamp as a spot light I managed to finally secure the target (RECTAL! Sorry), and looked around momentarily as I waited for the thermometer to complete its work. The noise I made grunting and cursing to reach Rodeo masked the sounds of an audience that had gathered as witness, and I was surprised to find three statuesque forms behind me. Gus (Great Pyrenees), Boss (goat), and Octavian (goat) stood in a neat, rigid line six inches behind me, their eyes wide in the spotlight, their breath puffed quietly in the frozen air. Were they there in solidarity for Rodeo’s plight? Jealous about the attention she was receiving, or perhaps worried they might undergo the same procedure she endured? I will never know. But in that moment I wished desperately for a camera to capture the enormous stupidity of the moment: Jenna with one hand on a thermometer poking from a cow’s bottom, shrouded by cactus I could barely see, three furry gentlemen solemnly considering the situation. My life, my life! I wanted to throw my hands up and exclaim. But who was listening? And who would answer my complaint?
I trudged back inside, resigned to the fact that a vet would likely have to be called first thing in the morning. And a vet was called out. And I did, in the end, have to drag/push Rodeo across a pasture while the rest of humanity was still snoring in bed. I then ushered curious dogs, goats, and cows away from the wilted heifer, led them into another pasture. Closed gates, re-secured an electric fence. Then fed the rest of the farm that peered, bleated, and clucked at me from across the driveway throughout the morning.
The short story? Rodeo has a nasty cold that hopefully won’t become pneumonia. The long story is what you read above. And the neverending story is this: I will tell this again, the lead role cast differently next time (Will it be Jolene? Winnie?). I will again find myself alone in the midst of a ridiculous situation, in the middle of night, or the middle of a thunderstorm. I will again lean dramatically over the kitchen table, allowing myself one minute of petty tears – not for the animal – but for myself. I won’t stop telling it, and I won’t stop living it, and I definitely will always be sure of what drove me to this plot in the first place.