I’m Tough But He’s Tougher
It’s another busy week for the Rush household. Joe is off to Macon for a Cattlemen’s conference for two days. Then on Thursday I am headed to Atlanta to assist with a conference through work. Of course, in order to be able to get out of town, there was some preparation that needed to be done at the farm. So Joe has been humping it since last week. He is pulling 10 to 12 hour days which usually only happens in the extended daylight of summer. It surprises me how much he can still get done in the dark. Yesterday was Sunday which is the day we pretty religiously (pun intended) honor as a church, family and rest day. Instead, this particular Sunday turned into a sort of cram day–just trying to get things in order before the busy week ahead.
The best part of the fact that Joe and his dad decided to work cows on Sunday is that I was invited to help. I should probably use the more appropriate phrase: tricked into helping. Joe so innocently and sweetly asked me Saturday evening if I would “like to come help them with some cow work.” Since we have been living back in Joe’s hometown I have had the opportunity to work cows quite a bit so I kind of know what to expect. What I didn’t see coming was that this was going to turn into about 2 days worth of work jam-packed into one long Sunday. I actually thought we would be done a little after lunch time. I was wrong.
The day began for my father-in-law at 4 a.m. He picked up chicken houses and after that he headed to a cow pasture to lure the cow-calf pairs up to the catch pen with the feed wagon. Joe left the house a little before 8 because we did keep our Sunday morning sleep-in sacred, by golly. I took Hannah to her Nana’s around 8 and then the work crew met up at the farm. We had two other helpers meet us out there as well: my dad and Joe’s friend Brent. The first goal of the day was to get up the cow-calf pairs, deworm the cows, tag the calves and separate the dry cows from the mamas. This group had 35 cows and 28 calves. Things went pretty smoothly and we were done with that by 11:30.
At that point I thought, “That wasn’t too bad. Now we can get some lunch and enjoy the rest of our Sunday relaxing with family.” I was wrong again.
We headed back to the farm “headquarters.” (That’d be the main tractor shed and tool shop.) When we convened there, pop-in-law had some ideas of what we could work on next. I pointed out that we needed to be fed before the operation could carry on so I was sent to town to pick up fast food and get another bottle of dewormer. We were going to work the 25 weaner bulls so that we could move them to the bull pasture. Oh well, at least I was getting lunch. You can motivate me to do a lot if you feed me.
While I was gone, I figured the guys would hang around and be bored waiting for their lunches. Nope, Joe and Pop put them to work. I think they had a gate to fix/rehang or something to that effect. They eventually were able to choke down their box lunches and then we headed out to the chute to work the bulls. They had to be weighed, dewormed and checked for tattoos. If they hadn’t been tattooed yet then we had to do that before they were to be turned out to the big pasture. That would be why Joe’s and my hands are green today. Oh and my fingernails are black in places from making the calf tags. Yes, I showered but permanent ink likes to stick around.
That work went pretty well and we were done with that by 3 or so. From there, it was time to head back to the cows and turn the calves out to nurse so that we could match up the pairs. We also had to move the pairs to a new pasture where the ryegrass was already coming up pretty well. At this point we were clocking in at around 4:30. Already a full day considering we took a short lunch break. (I’m used to my 8-5 office job, you know.) When we got back to headquarters I told Dad I thought we were done so if he needed to go, thanks for all the hard work. He headed out and stopped to talk to Joe and I suppose confirm that we were, in fact, done for the day. Wrong again.
At some point during the 2 minute commute from cow pasture to headquarters, Pop had called Joe and let him know that there was a cow not taking her new calf and we needed to get them up. This was in a different group than we had worked earlier. So off Joe and Brent went to get that calf up. Nana said she and Hannah were good so Joe asked me to bring the Kubota RTV and help chase the cow up. Well, she was less than cooperative. We had to get that cow up to the pen with the calf, so I got on my horse while Joe drove the Kubota, Brent worked the gate and Pop watched the hole in the line of trucks and tractors that made up our temporary fence. You’re right, that is the recipe for disaster.
The cow was young and her udder was strutted so I’m sure she was not happy or comfortable. She didn’t know where we had taken her calf and now we were trying to separate her from the herd. It didn’t quite work that way. Next plan was to bring the entire group up and then cut her out up by the calf’s pen. This worked better but still required some fancy riding by me bareback in my Carhartt pants and mud boots and a halter “romel” with which to steer. I am blessed with the best pony ever though and we got it done. With Joe luring the cows up front with bags of mineral in the Kubota and Superhorse and me following up behind the stragglers, we got them in. Then the hard work began.
We had to milk the cow and get some to the calf while trying to convince both cow and calf that nursing was possible. I admit that this was the first time I have milked a cow. Joe tried to explain it to me but with the condition of her udder and what I would like to call bad teats, I had trouble getting any milk out. I did get a little and Joe got a good bit so we put it in a calf bottle and let the calf eat from that. That got his appetite going and he was able to nurse the cow down pretty well. Of course the nursing part took awhile and it was 7 o’clock before I finally told Joe I was going to pick up Hannah and go home. Hannah and I shared a gourmet meal of hotdogs and soup, and threw in a potpie for Joe. He got home a little after 8, chowed down, said bedtime prayers with Hannah and me and then started packing so he could head out at 6 this morning. While he was packing we talked about our “rest day.”
Joe: “Yep that’s pretty much how every day goes for me at work.”
Me: “That’s craziness. I mean, I stay busy all day from the time my feet hit the floor and I feel like I can do a lot of stuff but there is no way I could work like you and your dad do every day.”
Joe: “There is always more that needs to be done. It is never ending.”
I know that I maintain a high level of activity and am exhausted enough each day that when my head hits the pillow I am out. But there are a lot of days that I feel like I do too much and life is too hectic. I let my nerves get worn and my attitude get sorry. I realize that it takes a truly tough person to come home from that farm and have a smile on his face and silly words for his daughter, a kiss and an “I love you” for his wife every night. It takes real fortitude to face each morning with optimism and determination to get the most done to the best of his ability each day. I might be a strong and capable person, but I know that Joe’s got me beat when it comes to mental, physical and emotional toughness. Just don’t tell him I admitted it.