Friday, September 5, 2014

A Cow Story from Stake Conference

One of the perks of being a general authority's wife is hearing the stories. My husband comes home from weekend conferences with all kinds of amazing stories from wonderful saints that we would never know otherwise.

Here is one of them. I think there are things in the story for children and things for you, the grouwn-ups, to think about.

From a Stake Conference in the Mountains of Northern California

It's a true story so it has that grainy feel of life that's the best thing about real stories. Personally I have always disliked those made up teach-a-lesson stories like the one about the little boy who offers to donate his blood to his dying sister, then says to the doctor, "Please Sir, when am I going to die?"

We should wait for the true stories. Though you've got to be patient to catch them, they are so much more powerful.

So....true story.
This last weekend my husband attended a Stake Conference in the Northern California mountains in a stake that is two hundred miles across and has 8 units, 5 wards and 3 branches, all small. It is probably not like your stake. It has a lot of what my grandmother called "the humble peoiple of the earth," several of them missing teeth.

The stake president, President M., is a cattle rancher who lives on 450 acres and has 200 head of cattle. That's a fairly small operation.  If you know anything about the math of cattle ranching, you know why the stake president also has a small construction business that builds about two houses a year. The ranch isn't for making money, it's for making boys into men. President M. has three sons and the ranch provides the raw materials for that: unremitting hard work that can't be put off or bellached away.

It's a lifestyle with definite benefits for raising kids. With all that work to be done, where's the time for getting into trouble of for sloth, i.e., video games social media, etc. The boys build muscles the wowboy way, by setting fence posts and tossing hay bales. Throw int the mix some construction crew time, and you get the picture. They grew up around barn cats, working dogs, cows and horses. They learned about sex, not from pornography, but from the life cycle of farm animals.  According to my husband they were three very impressive young men.

Stock photo of two very impressive young men...
I know I'm not supposed to covet, and I would certainly not have survived life as a farm or a ranch wife, but I still envy an environment that teaches character and hard work that way.  I never envy people with more money that I have.  I have more than enough for my needs and probably too much for my good. But I do envy people who raise their families on farms or working a family business.

Like a ranch family....
Mission Presidents love getting farm-boy elders from Idaho. Of course they do.  they work hard, don't complain, don't expect something or nothing and clean up after themselves. I look at my grown children and think they are amazing  But our life wasn't ranch life. There were a lot of sports practices (even some that required getting in a cold pool at 6 am, so I'm hoping that put some starch in a spine or two). There were semesters abroad, dance camps, sports camps and EFY. They swam in a sea of material stuff that they couldn't help but take for granted, like fish do water.

Everybody loves EFY...

...and Basketball Camp

...and swim meets and water polo games!

Once when I was a young mother praying about how to do this job of parenting--having very little modeling from my own upbringing to fall back on--I heard the Lord speak to me.  He said, "Teach your children how to work."

So there were a succession of chore charts and probably too much nagging, and a fair amount of guilt that I should have been tougher. Now they are all grown up and they are going to have to go beyond my limited mothering and continue to build their own characters from the stuff of their lives.  "God, lover of souls...Complete thy creature dear O where it fails, Being might a master, being a father and fond."  (With apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was probably not thinking of guilt-ridden mothers when he wrote this, but I think it can apply. From "The Valley of the Elwy," one of my favorites.)

But I'm getting off track. I want to tell you a story about a calf and a stake president and his son, who live on a ranch. Your children might njot this story because they likely have no idea what life on a ranch is like.

Each year there is a calving season, usually early spring, when the plan is for all the cows to have their babies within about a two month window so the people on the ranch can concentrate on helping them all be born safely.

During calving season the weather can turn dangerous for a newborn calf. If it is cold or windy a calf can easily get hypothermia.  It's got to get dry and warm soon, then stand up within the first hour to nurse so it gets the milk it needs to gain strength.

Everybody on the ranch takes turn checking the pregnant cows who seem ready to deliver throughout the night so there will be somebody there if help is needed.

Calving season=night rounds
One late Saturday night a cow went into labor and President M. was the acting midwife. The little calf came out all right but wasn't doing well. It was windy and he was weak and shivering. His eyes were rolled back in his head and he wasn't trying to stand. The thought went through Prsident M.'s mind, "I'm gonna lose this one." Toweling him off wasn't enough and momma cow was losing interest.

Give me a second chance....

By this time it was early in the morning and President M's oldest son came out of the house and joined him.  When he looked over the situation, he got visibly excited.

"I can save him! I'm sure I can save him!

He had just finished a sixth-month long course in Emergency Medical Traning at a community college in Sacramento.

"Dad! I know I can save him! I've learned about this! Let me try!"

"Weren't you trained to save people...not cows?  What's your plan?"

"We just need to get him in the bath tub. He needs to be in warm water that is exactly 110° to 112°

"The bathtub?" At this moment President M.'s mind snapped to that part of his life you might call boundaries in the life of a ranch wife. " I don't think thats going to work son. Your mom isn't going to be ok with a bloody, muddy calf in her bathtub." 

"Yeah, well....uh, ok, I got it.  Let's pull a trough into the garage. I'll hook up a hose to the water hearer, and we'll add hot and cold water 'til we get the temperature just right. You get the thermometer while I get the hose hooked up."

The boy's enthusiasm carried the day, so they went into action.  They filled a clean feedng tough with warm water at just the right temperature, and then they lifted the fading calf into it.  They had to hold him upright so he wouldn't drown.

Slowly but surely they watched a miracle. First he sto[[ed shivering. Then the calf's eyes came forward in his head and he began to observe his surroundings. Finally he straightened his legs under him and stood.

"Ok! Now we have to get him dry. Let's take him in the house and use mom's hair dryer."

Again the stake president thought of his marriage. "Son, I have to get ready and leave for some church meetings. This calf is in your hands.  Just don't use  your mom's hair dryer."  It was Sunday morning.

"Ok Dad."

An hour later the stake president was sitting in a church meeting when he got a text from his son. Attached was a "selfie" of his son and the calf in front of the fireplace--blazing away. It was thumbs up and all smiles from President M.'s son, who had indeed 'saved him. The calf was looking dry and chipper. The message was: "He's fine. I've taken him to mom. All well."

Wish I had the actual selfie...if I get it I'll post it.

Lessons from this story?

For little ones, it's a chance to appreciate the creation. What a miracle the birth of a calf is! A momma cow gestates her baby for nine months, just like we do, but her baby weighs ten times what a humabn baby would--anywhere from 70 to 85 pounds!

In a normal birth the calf stands up within the first hour and begins to nurse. The momma sow has strong maternal instincts that guide her to do what is best for her baby. For example, she licks her calf at birth, which stimulates its circulatory and respiratory systems, and gets rid off the excess liquid which keeps the calf wet and makes it susceptible to wind chill.

Sure glad there isn't a corresponding instinct in humans!

It takes all of the parts of the "giving birth to a baby cow" system to work.  God designed the whole system to allow his creatures to successfully give birth. That is what usually happens, but in this story, something did not go right and the baby was failing. Without the rancher's help, the baby calf would have died.

Birth is an amazing miracle. God has designed a world for us that is full of miracles.  We have to learn to see and appreciate them. And it wouldn't hurt children to think about the animals they depend on for beef, milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream? These things aren't really made in machines, they are made by nature, which was made by God. Needed perspective.

What are the lessons for grown-ups? Here's some that Nana sees...

Don't give up  on the weak ones! Sometimes we see one of God's sons or daughters and think to ourselves, "They're not going to make it. They're beyond help." They need someone who's committed and passionate about saving them, like President M's son.

Saving weak calves and saving weak souls--both take hard work. That work can be exhausting and can come at inconvenient times. Do it anyway. 

And maybe there's a lesson here about the relationship between the father, who's running a cattle operation, and the son who loves him and who is committed to the success of his father's purpose.  What is the work of our Father? And how passionate are we about helping in it? Do we get excited at the prospect of saving on of His little ones? Anyway, these are the kind of things that bear asking in a discussion of this story.

Here's a link to the story of a woman who seemed like a "bad bet." She was a leftist feminist lesbian professor of women's studies at an eastern university.  She was in a committed gay relationship and hated Christians. But a Christian pastor and his wife put in the work to befriend and get to know her. The results are amazing.  Interesting reading....

Here's some videos for the kids about cows

Birth of a Baby Calf

Love you,

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