The Good Rancher is usually very deliberate in purchasing for his operation. So when he bought a large new bag of milk replacer, I raised my eyebrows.
"You just finished weaning Silver and Dominion and Mighty Mouse and Dougie! What's this about?"
"It's for the barn cats," he explained. And you never know when you might need milk replacer... "
So, knowing how the GR and God are in cahoots many times, it came as no real surprise to me when I got this message the following Tuesday:
"How you doing ? Hope well. I don't know if you are interested in this, but we have a calf that was born blind last week. It is sadly enough no good for us and I'd like to give it away. I am not sure if you can do anything with it, but if you want to give it a try you can."
Remember Mabel and her triplets, Wynken, Blynken and Nod? Remember the kind hearts of their first caregivers, Elize and Theo?
Elize was the one who wrote me. In further chatting, she had been bottle feeding this week-old little mite for a week — despite the fact that they run an extremely busy dairy operation!
But it was Elize with the tender heart who could not bear the thought of disposing of this sweet little calf without giving her a fighting chance.
I had met this woman only once, but I love her. I saw her pragmatism and compassion woven together and also manifesting in her daughters.
I see them in an uphill battle with formidable odds in their sector of the Ag industry, but they don't give up.
Of course she would not give up on this baby!
I told her how the GR had just finished weaning for the year, but that I would ask him.
(You already know what the answer would be, don't you?)
So on the Wednesday evening, after all the work of the day was done, we drove the almost two hours to the dairy farm. We were greeted by Elize and her daughter Aimee, and together we went to see the baby calf.
It turned out this baby had worked her way into Aimee's heart too.
I had not expected to see eyes like this little calf had. Aimee commented, "I bet if you put her under a black light, her eyes would glow!"
Each pupil — if pupils there even were — was completely covered by an eerily glowing disc, almost like a cataract.
They reminded me of Vaseline glass, otherworldly beautiful.
Yet they couldn't see a thing.
This baby was going to have to depend on her ears and her nose and her intelligence if she had a hope of making it.
I had planned on calling the calf "October" for the month in which she had been born. Now, after meeting Aimee and the calf, I asked her if she thought Liesl would be a good name.
Liesl. Because of The Sound of Music.
Because of "I'll take care of you."
Aimee thought it was a good name, and so it was settled. The GR loaded up Liesl into the calf warmer strapped into the truck box and off we set, back through the dark night but with a slight detour for a DQ dipped cone.
We went straight to the shop. You know this shop by now. The GR got Ironside Contracting Inc. to renovate Ken Keibel's old shop; and when they were done we had an addition big enough to house two tractors attached to feeding equipment.
We also had enough room, it seemed, to house a little calf named Angel, born in February, the first in a series of Shop Calves.
The next winter there was Gabriel, born December 23 ...
Then Jean and Grace and Brownie ...
Then Blind Bartimaeus ...
The GR has said on occasion, rolling his eyes, "Why don't we just take the tractors out so the calves will have more room?!"
The GR carried Liesl into the shop and set her down. I stood close to her and held her lightly while he quickly assembled pallets into a little pen, and got her situated.
She was shaking and panting a little. I gave her her milk, which she gulped down; right then the shop heater clattered loudly to life, and Liesl started gasping and shuddering, throwing her head from side to side.
One of the things I was taught in therapy was tapping to try to still my anxiety. I used it on my dog Musket after he was temporarily blinded as a result of a hit-and-run accident. It would always stop him from shaking.
Prince Harry has been a vocal proponent of it. And if it works for Haz, surely it might work for Liesl, I thought.
I whispered "Shhhh," over and over, and tapped slowly, rhythmically, on her right shoulder and her brisket. And in a few minutes she calmed down.
The GR was watching all of this and then he said, "Call them and see if they have any calves for sale. This one needs a friend if she's going to make it."
The next morning Liesl started to take tentative steps around her new home. Don and Ivy came over to check her out and gave me some pointers, along with the loan of a halter.
My heart was full when she even managed a little skip!
Over the next few days she calmed down and started to relax in her new freedom. The GR made a bigger, more open pen with gates at both ends. She always gravitated toward the white door at the end of the shop. If it looked like she was about to hit her head anywhere I would call out, "Oh, oh, oh!" and she would stop immediately.
And then Gretyl and Marta (the younger sisters of Liesl, natch) came home on Sunday evening. The Right Hand and the GifT were over at the shop when we arrived back. "I have a surprise!" the GR called out to the RH. "Actually, two surprises. Can you give me a hand?!"
The next day Liesl was stressed and I was distressed as these two much stronger little heifers galloped around her, adding to her disoriented confusion.
Two days in she was more calm. Now the three calves nuzzle each other when they are resting and squabble for rights to the first bottle at each feeding. Liesl had been left out, bewildered, as the two younger ones ripped from one end of the shop to the other... but this morning I do believe she is starting to hold her own!
Liesl has other troubles besides her eyes, I fear. One of her front legs is a bit off kilter. Her stomach is not strong. She is the smallest of the three, and she was born over a week earlier.
But she's still with us! She loves her bottle and reaches her neck toward me, telling me it's time for a scratch along her jawline. She comes toward the sound of my voice.
And every now and then, I think she sees a shadow — something — out of her left eye.
Her beautiful eyes.
Maybe it's going to be okay.