There’s nothing quite as sad as the cries of mama cows calling for their babies. This is the time of year when “calving” takes place whereby the young calves, ready or not, are separated from the herd. The females go off to be dairy or breeding cows, the males maybe prize breeding bulls if they’re lucky, more likely a “Burger King” special. This particular herd lives in a field not twenty feet from my door.
As cow lives go, they’ve got one of the better ones. Each spring, I watch the mamas out on the rich green grass, their heavy bellies nearly touching the ground, waiting to give birth. Then one morning I spot the first newborn shyly hiding behind its mother. While curious about the two-legged, red-haired creature who coos to it softly, trying to coax it to the fence for a pat, it stays pressed firmly to Mom’s side. Mornings go by and there are more babies to romp and play with the first. Each year I caution myself not to name them, but I can never resist. Francesca, Mikey, Belle…
The herd is a matriarchal society; other mothers, aunts and even grandmas tend to the discipline of any youngster who strays too far or otherwise requires correction. We humans would do well to take up this practice.
They are lovely neighbors. Mostly quiet, they tend to mind their own business, and happily take care of the yard work, providing brush clearance for free, making the high-fire area where I live less likely to ignite. So I can’t complain about the loud, mournful bellowing that kept me awake last night and greeted me this morning as the mother cows, teats still painfully full of milk, roamed the hillsides searching for their babies.
I step out to water my garden and they gather at the fence line, look at me expectantly, hopefully, as if I can restore their little ones to their sides, though I’m sure it is my own guilt for just being a human being that causes me to believe this. Still, I apologize. “I’m so sorry” I say.
It’s quiet now. Maybe they’ve given up, or maybe they’re just exhausted with grief. Living as intimately with the animal world as I do, I’m blessed daily with joys too numerous to count, and then there are times, like today, when I’m brought just as low by its sorrows.
But that’s life, isn’t it.