Today, I’m Thankful for the Heifers.
There's no other place I'd rather be during the COVID-19 crisis than here in rural American.

I’ve got no frame of reference for what we’re going through right now. 

A virus that originated half a world away. A global economy that’s never had to just STOP. Travel restrictions. Work restrictions. No ropings. No barrel races. None of the usual business that keeps my mind and my hands constantly in motion. 

I’ve struggled with writing anything at all about COVID-19 because we’re all in such uncharted waters that I can’t come up with an original thought about the whole situation. 

But Thursday—in the middle of a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow here in Northern Colorado—I got the reality check I needed. One of our heifers, one we bought from Jolly Ranch two springs ago, calved in our back pasture, leaving it forgotten in a snow bank. 

Scooped up in the pickup and brought in next to the homemade wood stove in the barn, that calf was quickly wrapped in blankets and towels and warmed enough to go back out to her mama. But about the time we dropped her back off in the pasture, our neighbors, who are also isolated, called to say they spotted another one alone and shivering in another snow drift.

My 3-year-old daughter spending her time out of daycare and in the barn. TRJ File Photo by Chelsea Shaffer

By now it was night, and this baby made her home in our basement. I’d been working all week from home, balancing the care of my 3.5-year-old daughter and the demands of a team roping industry facing unprecedented challenges. I’ve been racking my brain for creative strategies, for calming ideas, for ways to put this whole industry on a pause rather than a panic. 

This little calf in the basement was that pause I needed; the pause so many of us need. I’m sure I’m not alone right now, finding solace in our rural way of life. The calving heifers and the blizzards and the spring run off are the most welcome distractions yet to this crazy world, so today I’m thankful. 

For the tubing and the bottle-feeding, I’m thankful for the reminder that no matter how bad life in the outside world gets, there are creatures in need, and needs I can fill. 

Teaching calves to suck is a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day. TRJ File Photo by Chelsea Shaffer

For the shedding horses, I’m thankful for the peace I find in the repetition in the brushing, the progress I can see in the hair stacking up on the ground. 

For the run-off, I’m thankful for the trenches I can dig in the mud to let the water flow out of the pens and down into the pasture, the one that’s starting to sprout under the wet snow.

For the time at home, I’m thankful I can start the spring deworming and vaccinating, with more care and less haste. 

Family feed-truck time is a welcome change of pace. TRJ File Photo by Chelsea Shaffer

For the hungry cows, I’m thankful for the oh-so-rare time as a family inside the feed truck, which is quickly becoming our daily routine. 

For the dirt roads, I’m thankful for the time alone on a run, where I can wave “Hi” to my neighbors as my dogs run behind me, still finding community when it’s so scarce these days. 

I don’t know what these next few days and weeks and months will bring, but I do know that I’m grateful that I’m spending them here in Rural America, with so many reminders that life will go on, one way or another. That heifers may still need convincing to let that first calf suck, that pastures will still need swapped and mud will still need managed.

When this is over, and we’re all at our first jackpot back, perhaps we’ll bring with us the grateful hearts that this time is teaching us, and the world will look a little different—for the better. TRJ  

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