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February, 2006


by Julia

I learned that our cows and goats had different personalities; just like people there were some who didn't have much at all but some really different. One of our nanny goats, who was named Lou Ann, was a screamer when she had babies. You could hear her a long way away so you knew when she was in labor. Most of the nannies just squatted down and strained a bit and the baby would slip out. But not Lou Ann! She was also prone to have more than the usual two. That created a problem since a goat has two teats. If they had triplets the goat would force one away until it gave up. We would then feed the extra one on a bottle, but in nature the extra one would die.

One very cold, rainy night, about 11:00, we heard Lou Ann start screaming. Grandpa went out to see and called me to come out because he thought something was wrong. She had one baby born but although she was straining and yelling nothing was happening. After awhile I called the vet, who probably didn't appreciate being awakened at midnight, and he brusquely told me that I would have to reach into her and pull the baby out. He said it was undoubtedly turned wrong and that his hands were too large and my husband's would be too. You can picture the scene which ensued. Lou Ann was crying; I was crying, because I was afraid that I was hurting her and that I would kill the baby. But after a few minutes I could feel the feet and was able to pull them around to the birth canal and, sure enough, as soon as they were in the right position the baby slipped right out. A few moments later out popped the third and we knew we would have to go get the milk replacer and bottle.

One of Julia and Leon's nanny goats (likely not Lou Ann), with a young kid, at the 10-B Ranch, about 1984

We finally sold Lou Ann, and things were much more quiet around the 10B Ranch after that. She was the only goat we had with such a temperament and the only one who regularly had triplets.

We didn't milk our goats or cows but occasionally one would get mastitis in the teats which was a very painful condition causing the bag and teat to swell. If not relieved, it could cause infection and even death. When one developed this problem, Grandpa called upon me to milk the animal to get the swelling down. After a few times they were usually all right. This was no big deal with a goat. Although they weren't used to being milked, Grandpa would tie the hind legs and it didn't take long to get the situation under control.

However when we had a cow develop mastitis it became a "horse of another color" , to borrow a phrase. Grandpa called me from the house and explained that he would tie the hind leg of "Baby" and I could milk her just like I did the goats. Now Baby had horns--big horns--and she was the first animal we had raised on the ranch, we had bought her when she was three days old, and she had been spoiled rotten. She was already sore and couldn't understand why this man who had always treated her with such loving care was all of a sudden putting a rope around her leg and anchoring it so she couldn't move. Then all of a sudden this creature whom she didn't know in any capacity other than to hear her coo sweet nothings at her was approaching with a bucket. As I bent down to reach her bag she began to bellow in protest. When I touched her sore teat she jerked, tearing the rope loose, and kicking me in the jaw as hard as she could--believe me it was hard and took me three days to get over it. I never tried to milk a cow again, and fortunately for Baby her calf grew stronger and was able to get the milk out enough to relieve the pressure on the teat.

However, Baby never forgave me. I couldn't go out into the pasture but that she would take after me; twice she got me against the fence and horn whipped me. I learned to get behind Grandpa if I wanted to go anywhere near where she was. I was the only one though; all others she treated with kindness. In those days the cows were taught to wear a halter and the boys would take them out to nearby pasture by the road to browse. At the end of the day they were brought back into the small acreage we owned. More than once I would look out and see some parents with a small child come over to Baby and pose the child to take a picture. She acted like a ham, just standing there with her big horns, and never hurt anyone.

I guess the moral of the story is that most creatures, if treated with love and gentleness, will respond in the same way. But if we do something they don't understand, we can't be sure of the reaction, and it could be fatal.

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