If there is one thing that I can tell someone who is starting out in homesteading or anything for that matter, it’s to never give up.
Never giving up is a priceless attitude and mantra that facilitates success. It’s what the people who founded this country had when they cultivated the virgin land and made it the great place we call home.
The new calves, Baby and Star, were full of life when we brought them home. They were adorable and rambunctious jumping around in the straw inside the makeshift barn we made for them. They loved to be scratched all over and weren’t bashful to move around to suggest other areas to be scratched. But as soon as we slid the rope hope halter around their neck, they practically fell to the floor. They appeared lifeless and limp lying on the ground, but their necks were so stiff, it was difficult to move them around.
I could feel my stomach sink to the soles of my feet. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, something that happens when truly bad things happen. For a moment, we thought they were dead. Their bodies lay completely lifeless on the ground.
As we attempted to pick them up they remained as rigid as a board and heavier than a ton of bricks. Something was wrong but we didn’t know how to fix it. They continued to remain motionless, but their eyes wide open.
The thought raced through my mind and only added fuel to the fear that consumed all of us. Surely, they must be dead. We stood there in the cold barn for an eternity trying to figure out the next steps. The ground was too frozen to dig a grave, and even if I had a hole in the ground, I wasn’t sure how I would get them into it.
Time for plan B or C, or whatever plan we were on at this time. I was growing more frustrated by the second and realizing how unrealistic my dreams of homesteading were becoming. How on earth did Almanzo Wilder train oxen to pull a plow at 10 years old? How on earth did I manage to kill a cow before it was 10 days old?
I can only imagine how silly I would look if I had been born just a century earlier. Even with modern conveniences and technology, I struggle to master some basic things that indigenous tribes delegate to their children. As I continued to sulk over my failures and hide the tears of remorse for a lost life, my wife noticed something strange and peculiar about the dead calves.
While their lifeless heads lay on the ground, their ears would subtly and inconspicuously move side to side, as we walked around inspecting her for any sign of life. They weren’t actually dead they were only acting. Their performance was better than any Oscar performance. In fact, I think Leonardo DiCaprio should come over and take lessons. Better still, I learned that there is more entertainment in a makeshift barn than in all of Hollywood.
Once we got them to their feet, they became more determined to stand still. They hunched their backs, planted their front legs into the ground and stared me down. Their message was clear. They weren’t moving and there was nothing I could do about it.
The blisters in my hand began to ache, my body became sore from pulling on the rope for so long, and in the end, I got nowhere.
Unfortunately, I’m irascible and obstinate too. Although I’m prone to failure and injury, a calf’s stubbornness is no match for my own. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. We were warned when we got our calves that they would play dead if they were haltered… and boy did they. I even pretended to play scared.
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