Biff America: Love on the range
It is hard to watch something suffer and die when you know its name.
It’s particularly difficult when your wife has named that thing “Toodles.”
Toodles was barely a day old when we found him.
Toodles was a new-born calf.
We were on the second day of our spring vacation and looking for a romantic place to camp – or at least I was. We drove our camper four miles up the narrow dirt road, about, 50 miles north of Moab, and parked on a high point with a 360-degree view. My mate and I were sitting in our lawn chairs reading when she noticed a new-born lying about 25 yards away. There were no other cattle around, though we could tell some had been there recently; obviously Toodles was left behind
Ellen approached the new born, it stood up on wobbly legs; it still had its umbilical cord hanging off its belly
Ellen said, “I think that little guy is hungry”
I knew this wasn’t going to end well: “Its mother will take care of it.”
My mate was not to be argued with: “Look around, do you see any mothers?”
I don’t know why I bothered to argue but my response was: “Well you’re not his mother.” How wrong I was.
My mate went into the camper and returned with my commemorative Tour De-France water bottle filled with cream.
“Did you save some for our coffee tomorrow?” I asked.
Her ignoring the question told me she had not.
Toodles was fading fast. Ellen was able to catch it, put her arm around his neck and force the bottle in his mouth. At first it resisted but once it tasted the milk it went crazy.
Before the sun had set it had drank all of our cream and soy milk; Ellen tried to feed it some mashed-up feta cheese mixed with water, which didn’t go over well and ruined another of my water bottles.
After his first sip, Toodles followed Ellen around, with a bovine devotion, his nose on her butt. The affection was mutual – this was the closest my mate had come to motherhood – it was a shame her first child had four legs.
I was inclined to put my foot down – this was the second day of our vacation and Toodles was not our responsibility. Whoever owned him would come get him or not. I was going to say all that, but instead I drove10 miles to the nearest truck stop to buy some milk while my mate and her steak waited at our campsite.
It brings me no pride to say this but I hoped that, by the next morning, Toodles would have wandered off or died; I knew that was the only way we would be rid of him. But as soon as the sun rose we heard him braying; he had slept under our camper.
Ellen fed her baby breakfast while I worked the phone to find Toodles’ real parents.
I called the Sheriff, the BLM and even the nearest veterinarian to see if any knew who had the permit to graze on that public land. Both BLM and Sherriff said to leave the calf to fend for itself, but the vet did give us directions to a nearby ranch that would take care of Toodles until the rightful owner could be located.
I have learned there are times in a marriage when negotiations are possible … and there are times when you’re loading a cow into the back of your RV.
So it came to pass that I ended up driving on I-70, heading in the opposite direction of our vacation destination, with livestock in my camper.
When we were within miles of the ranch, Toodles’ rightful owner called; she had gotten my number from the BLM.
She said that she wanted her veal brought back to where we found him, which was fine by me. But I made the mistake of bringing my phone back to the RV, where my mate and Toodles were lounging on the couch.
As I made a U-turn on I-70, I heard Ellen speaking to the cow’s owner. The upshot was that was we were not going to bring the veal back to where we found him but rather to the spot where the herd was relocated after Toodles was left behind.
One hour and 50 miles later, we were wandering through a herd of cattle looking for Toodles’ mother. Unfortunately, cows are like hamburger: They all look alike. Ellen reluctantly left her baby amongst the pack hoping his mother would find him. She called the rancher with detailed directions to Toodles and suggested they come as soon as possible to make sure he had been reunited.
For the next couple of days Ellen would tear up with worry.
“We never should have left him.”
When I tried to assure her that we did what the owner asked, and to do any more might be considered cattle rustling. But my mate was inconsolable.
Two days, and two hundred miles later, we received a call from the rancher saying that she had in fact found Toodles, brought him home and he was living in her back yard being bottle fed. Ellen was so happy she cried. I was proud to married to someone who was so full of love. I was also happy to have cream for my coffee the next morning…
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com
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