Horses, Chickens, Lizards and the Wall of Fire

Guest Post by Melissa Bishop

In 2011 there was a terrible drought, the worst in Texas history. After several years without rain, the trees of the piney woods were dying. They were as flammable as gasoline. Then came a hurricane off the coast, 40 mph winds were blowing. Miles away in the forest, power lines sagged in the heat and swung wildly. They touched and sparks fell, and a 55 square mile forest fire started. I fought this fire and lost, wearing flip flops and a sundress.

It all started as an afternoon of beautiful rosy orange light. I thought, ah, it is the golden Autumn light. I was wrong.

An hour later I smelled the smoke. I walked out on the Park Road and up Bike Wreck Hill. It looked like stars were falling in the woods. Everywhere, little fires were landing on the dry pine needles. I went back to my house and called my friend Jarad and asked, “Where’s the fire?” He said, “What fire?” A few minutes later he called back and said, “You better get out. It looks like its coming down the Alum Creek watershed.”

Little fires beginning

Jarad came with his stock trailer but the horses were too nervous to get in. As we tried to load the frantic horses, off about a quarter mile away we heard a strange hissing roar. We heard it go by like a freight train, from the north to the south. Later we learned that it was a crown fire running on a 40 mile an hour wind. A crown fire is a fire storm that rolls through the woods like a horizontal tornado. The heat from it explodes all the trees in front of it, and it travels faster than the wind. This was one of many crown fires, and it blew all the way to the river and jumped it. If it had been 1/4 mile further east, this tale would never have been told.

I told Jarad, “Why don’t you go on back to the ranch, I will bring the animals.” I loaded the milk goats into the goat carrier on my truck, and loaded the chicken cage on top of the goat carrier. I went to the lizard house and caught my giant carnivorous Water Monitor, BigAssLizard, and stuffed the hissing, thrashing creature into a king size pillow case. I took the two stallions and led them holding their lead ropes out the window of the truck at a gallop. I led them two and a half miles to the safety of Jarad’s ranch, where I have known the family living there for 32 years. Then I went back for the remaining 4 birds. And the emus. But how could I load the emus? Papa, Mama, Kicking Bird and Diniwan? I could not. The poor emus!

Big Hissy saying hello to the emus

I gathered 2 more hens from their coup, caught the raven and the songbird and loaded them in pillowcases. My brave little Whippet bitch was at my side. When I drove back up to the park road, night was falling, it was smokey and strangely dark. At the end of the driveway I drove straight into Hell. The fire had come over the hill and raged on both sides of the road. Tall pines were burning from crown to foot. Continuous showers of sparks flew off them like Roman candles. Tree trunks exploded with loud bangs, burning shards of wood flew through the air. The fiery wind was blowing hard as the heat increased. Flaming trees were falling across the road right and left. I could not go forward. I turned and went the other way. Same thing. So I drove back down to my place and got the chain. Going back into the fire, I wrapped the tow chain on burning trees and pulled them off of the road with my little red truck. And no I was not scared. I was mad. Mad at the fire. Mad at what it was doing to the forest. A chemical reaction. Not the wrath of god, no, just a reaction of physics. Starting from some idiotic little spark.

My neighbour bringing his horses out – the fire reflected in the truck mirror is where I was

Eventually, I came to trees too big to drag. My truck could not budge them. The heat and smoke were getting intolerable. I got my cell phone, called 911 and asked “What do they suggest I do?” The lady said “Stay where you are, we will send someone to get you.” I said, “No, that’s alright, don’t risk anyone.” She said, “Stay there, don’t worry, we will send someone.” I said, “No thanks that’s alright.” and hung up. I simply could not stay where I was.

I went back to my house. It was still there! From the north a low line of fire was coming down the hill. So I went and got two buckets, and carried loads of water from the horse trough. I stopped that fire 20 feet from my house. Just then, lights came bouncing through the smoke. It was policemen, three state troopers and a sheriff. They said, “Come on! Come on! Lets go!” I went with them, but they let me go back to my truck. They said to go to Smithville to the ‘Rec Center’. So I drove east down Hwy 71 toward Smithville. I appreciated what the police had done. They had moved flaming trees off the road that I couldn’t move. But it seemed to me that the ‘Wreck Center’ was back at my place. I had been having such good results with those two buckets. And the emus! So I turned on KLBJ road went back on the park road.

After Alum creek I came to the end of the world. It looked like the land of Mordor in the last battle. Flames writhed in the forest like demons, like huge dragons in their monstrous fire. I could not drive through that tunnel of fire. So I parked my truck back at the creek where the fire had already burned through. I ran through a tunnel of fire back to my land. No I was not afraid then. I have been in forest fires before, as one of the ad hoc volunteer fire fighters. Or in controlled burns. But this was no controlled burn. I was cautious but made my way through, mostly on the road. Flaming trees fell in explosions of sparks. But if you see one fall, that means it hasn’t fallen on you. And you go on. And my dog was still with me.

My house incredibly was still there. I could even see the flames of the fire reflected in it’s windows. So I started in with the buckets again. But before my eyes, I saw the points of the flames change direction on the wind. And from the west and coming fast, was a wall of fire 20 feet high. I cannot handle this I said to myself. But then, a crazy thought took over. People are not in their right minds in a fire. We are like horses running back into a burning barn. I turned to face that wall of fire with my two buckets, narrowed my eyes and said, Bring It On.

Wall of fire

Just then, the lights came running though the smoke again. It was those same policemen! How did they know? They said, “Look! There’s her dog!” I said “You again!” They said “You Again!” I said “Its OK, I was doing fine.” The trooper looked into my eyes and said “No you’re not, You’re fixing to die.” I ran with them up the hill, but stopped and bent down and held my knees. I was so tired, I could not breathe. There was no oxygen. They came back and stayed with me and told me to run. That wall of fire was coming fast from the west and right next to the road. There were more police waiting on the road and they ran to their cars. They would not let me get back in my truck this time. I said, “Wait! I have animals in my truck!”
“What kind of animals?”
“Birds” I said.
“We don’t allow birds in the police car.”
I thought of all the jailbirds they had had in that car. I said, “They are chickens! They are in pillow cases! If this was a police dog you would let him right in!”
Sometimes you get a view of yourself from the Universe, arguing with police in the middle of hell. So I just got in with the birds.

They took me to Smithville Hospital, and got me evaluated for smoke inhalation. I am a nurse. I had already treated the burns on my legs while I waited for the doctor, and the other nurses approved of this. Then the police took me to that shelter. The people there had to document everything, what kind of animals I had, what were their names. I told them the names of the chickens, and that the Raven was a chicken. They did not check. They were very kind. They gave me food and water and gave me my own little room and gave the birds upside down laundry baskets to stay in. They gave me a cot with soft clean pillows, how precious.

The next day, the highway and all the roads were closed. The fire had moved south but was still out of control. My truck was 10 miles away, so I snuck around the police line and walked back. I got a ride part way from a news photographer. Of course my place was burned up. But the emus were still alive! And not even hurt! How could they live? Then I saw where the wall of fire had come through, ash and bare black sticks that used to be massive tree trunks. It looked like an atomic bomb had gone off. Then I realized, how could I have lived?

My house that burned down and my brave little Whippet

So I went to the ranch where my animals were. Boiling black clouds like a huge storm front were behind the hill. The family was in a panic. The brothers had a crazy theory that the fire would not get the ranch buildings. The grass on the hill was all gone from the cattle grazing and the drought and the fire would go around. Yet they drove off in a hurry. Jarad told me, “Melissa, maybe you should get out of here.” But I said, “I’m not leaving you, Jarad.” Jarad had been my friend for 32 years. He had once taken care of me for months when I was hurt so bad in an accident and got out of the hospital. He had been a gallant horseman who helped me with my animals as long as I had known him. No way would I leave him there all alone – although I had my doubts about their theory. I went into the house and retrieved my giant lizard out of the shower where I had stashed her, just in case. We took refuge in Jarad’s truck and pulled it out into a graveled area.

My suspicions were well founded. Because what came over that hill was a monster of fire, a crown fire said by distant witnesses to be 80 feet above the trees. It raced across the pasture. Tornadoes of fire twisted and ran eerily along the fire line. The stored hay crop on the hill went in an explosive flash. The wall of flame roared through the corrals and burned the very soil. It burned down to mineral soil. Oh yes, it took the whole ranch, killed my milk goats when the barn was destroyed, burned the ranch house and the tractor and all the out buildings. When the smoke shifted for an instant every single thing we could see was on fire. I wanted to get out of that truck. I wanted to save things. Set the horses and animals free to run, to save the painting of the bull that hung in the house, and Jarad’s guitars. And where was my dog? But I was afraid. That’s when I was afraid. The smoke was so thick we could hardly see the windshield wipers. There was no oxygen. Neither of us could easily draw a breath, but we both pretended like nothing was wrong. There was nothing we could do. The horses, my beautiful black stallion and his pony friend, and Jarad’s cowhorse and his old red horse… The fire had burned through their corrals, they must have died a horrible death. I was crying. But when the wind shifted the smoke, there they were, still standing up! They had burns on their feet, and their tails were shorter. Later, in the evening, my chickens started to come from everywhere. How did they live?

My Arabian stallion, Lucky

Jarad and I slept that night, with the fire still burning in the woods here and there, on saddle pads on the sidewalk of the smoldering ranch house. Later, we fixed the calf hospital to be a sort of a house. There was nothing else. Not even a hollow tree.

My friends showed up from south of Houston within 3 hours the next day, and brought a generator, a field kitchen, cooked huge meals and fed us like kings. They built an outhouse over the septic tank with a flush toilet and even a shower. They pulled the still smoldering tree trunks off the roof of the calf hospital. I went to town on a 100 mile round trip for supplies and hay. Because country people know the back roads around the roadblocks. And we have livestock to feed and care for, we will not leave them.

I came back with bales of hay stacked above the cab and groceries for the people and pain medicine for the horses. And that deputy dog at the Antioch road intersection would not let me pass. “But that is the ranch right there!” I said, pointing to the blackened corner. “This is hay for the cattle, and pain medicine for the horses!” That cop would not let me pass. He said to go back the way I came. Then I did something I had never done in my entire life. I narrowed my eyes like a bead and said, “Fuck You!” Drove a short way down the road, got out with wire cutters and cut the fence. And I took other people who followed in their cars with me too, so they could get to their places. It was like a caravan across the blackened landscape. Later this well worn track would come to be known by the local population as The Scenic Route.

People of the countryside helped each other. Everyone was covered in soot. A cheerful woman showed up on a four wheeler with a tiny dog in a crate that was tied on the back. She had a plastic rake, she said she used it to put out spot fires. She loaned us her chain saw. People who had food and clothes gave to those who did not. I made bird and deer feeders and water stations. I found cut up apples and vegetables left on the feed by unknown benefactors. People showed up from out of state with truck loads of hay and fed entire cattle herds. Semi truck loads of donated horse equipment, buckets, halters and saddles were given away.

Weeks later, the forest is still on fire here and there but they put it out with helicopters. From here on this hill we could see 4 or 5 columns of smoke. BigAssLizard had a new house. The horse’s feet were all healed up. All my chickens were running loose and the little outhouse was now their chicken house. I was grateful to those brave policemen who saved my life. My timid little Whippet bitch had shown she has the courage of a lioness.

And all in all, what was lost was just stuff. Things come and go in life. My mother, when she retired from her career as a classical pianist, used to periodically give everything she owned away and go off with her dog and start a new life. And unlike me, she did this on purpose. I can learn from this. Actually, it is quite liberating. My next house will be a treehouse in some other green wood. Not a crummy treehouse nailed to a tree, but a nice house up on telephone poles in the trees. Yes, treehouses and forests can burn down, but so what? All this is part of Life on Earth. Part of the Entertainment.

Jarad and I getting married after the fire. “Jarad, I will never leave you” was a marriage by fire. We have known each other now for 40 years.

Melissa Bishop is a Vet Tech and ICU Nurse. Since childhood, she’s had a recurring dream of being an invisible spirit, flying along the coast and seeing a seal ooching along the beach. She flew down there and entered her to be born as a seal… but it turned out it was not a seal, it was her newlywed parents wrapped in a blanket. Melissa’s mother told her when she was a teenager that she was conceived on an isolated beach at Big Sur. She has been blessed to know and care for 12 horses in her life – along with chickens, emus, lizards, cows, and more!

Horses, Chickens, Lizards and the Wall of Fire

24 thoughts on “Horses, Chickens, Lizards and the Wall of Fire

  • March 24, 2019 at 10:46 am
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    About that marriage by fire–

    You know, Jarad and I first met on horseback 40 years ago. In California and in Texas I always rode wherever I wanted, politely and discretely trespassing, not leaving any gates open. So, one Texas morning I went riding on Tamar, the greatest and best of all my horses, onto a grassy hayfield and galloped her up a low hill. And here from the other direction a handsome cowboy galloping up on a black horse.

    He lifted his hat and said, Howdy ma’am. Whats ya doin?

    What does it look like I’m doing? I’m riding my horse. (20 years old, bareback, in cutoffs, with a fringed leather top with beads and feathers like an Indian).

    Well, he said, You are on my land.

    This is not your land! I said, thinking I was on the state park land, (also illegal).

    Yes it is.
    No it’s not!
    Yes it is.
    No it’s not!

    Uhh…OK, well….be careful then. And he rode off.

    And now from where I am sitting I can see the green hill where we first met 40 years ago.

    here it is:

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    • March 24, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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      That is some BEAUTIFUL land… right there

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  • March 24, 2019 at 10:50 am
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    Here are some of the chickens that lived through the forest fire. They like to rest by poking their necks through the fence like this. It is a miracle that they lived through the fire. After evacuating them from my place all the chickens were in a steel cage locked inside a cattle trailer. The cattle trailer and its wood floor burned to the ground, yet all but two of my chickens showed up again that evening. Some had burned feet whick I doctored

    This rooster is almost 10 years old and about every four weeks he works up his courage to attack me. For 10 years he has been attacking me. I fake him out with my hand and quickly catch him by his legs and dunk him in the cow trough. This cools him off for about a month each time.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 10:52 am
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    Here are the eggs they produce. Most of them are blue egg laying Aracaunas. Also not a single useless scrap of food is wasted on this ranch. It is recycled back into eggs. This big brown egg I get from a Black Wyandotte I brought back to Texas from Oregon. She was the last remaining chicken of a guy down the road whos chickens had all been killed by a bobcat. He was going to use the last hen for bait so he could shoot the bobcat. I said Hey wait a minute. How about you put her on my truck and take her back to Texas? So I smuggled her through all the agricultural inspection staitons at state lines under my coat. She is very tame and a fine producer.

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  • March 24, 2019 at 10:54 am
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    This is The Shadow Chicken. She is a Copper Maran. They lay the darkest brown eggs of any kind of chicken. I have 9 chickens, one is a rooster. This rooster guards, looks after, find food items for and of course mates with all the hens. However, he has a favorite hen. When I open the gate to their yard, all the chickens run out. But if the blue hen has not come out yet, he goes back into the pen and waits for her. He mates with her preferably. She runs a short distance but then lays down for him. They are usually together. She also roosts next to him at night in the henhouse. I have never seen such a chicken romance.

    This hen, she is known as The Shadow Chicken. She is blue grey as a shadow and she is always the last to come home to roost. When it is almost too dark to see she is still out picking around. When I go into the feed house to get the horses their evening grain and come back out, there is the up turned face of the Shadow Chicken, looking into my eyes at the door. She gets a few oats, then starts to walk toward the chicken house. Then she realizes how late it is and starts running. This happens every night. When she comes to the door of the hen house, she softly clucks. From above her within the house, you can hear the rooster saying cwoocoo cwoocooo. I love this Shadow Chicken. Chickens really are sentient beings.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:00 am
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    This is my soul mate hen. She is a Rhode Island Red. She was the last remaining pullet of a neighbor who had a coyote problem. Her name is Red.

    She follows me around on the ranch. I always bring her to Oregon every year from Texas where she lives in the barn. This is Red living in a box stall. When I first got her one night we heard the chickens cackling franticlly in the henhouse. I ran out there, opened the door and there was a grinning possum. It had not killed any chickens yet and I poked it with a stick and it stopped playing possum and ran off. I counted the hens but Red was missing. We found her lying out in the dark in the tall grass. She was head injured. She could not hold up her head and could not stand, she could not drink or feed herself. So my ICU nurse determination kicked in. I propped her up with towels and fed her wet chicken mash by hand for three months. I opened her beak and put food in and filled up her crop twice a day. Gradually, she could stand and peck and feed herself. But it is obvious she is not right in the head. She has no respect for the pecking order and will march right up to dominant hens, make a circular motion with her head and give a crazy look with one wild red eye. Since I am gone for months at a time I thought the other hens might kill her so I take her with me on a 3000 mile cross country trips. When I am in Oregon she lays eggs for my breakfast.

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:17 am
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    just…magic

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:33 am
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    Here is an Arabian stallion named Lucky. When I call him at night with hoofbeats of approaching thunder he materializes out of the dark, as if the night itself has come alive. Then, the touch of a velvet nose….

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:35 am
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    Last November he had a Really Big Snake Problem.

    It was morning, thirty three degrees, raining with a howling wind. My black horse somehow found and messed with a frozen pit viper and it bit him on the nose.

    I went out to feed him and he was restless and would gingerly taking his bites of carrot, which was odd as he usually snatches carrots. I let him out in the field in his black and red blanket and noticed Wow, what a beautiful Arabian dished face he has. Why did I never notice that? I called him back and I saw that his nose was swelling up from his lip up to where the nasal bone starts. There were two puncture wounds two inches apart bleeding uncoagulated blood. I called the vet and ran back to him. Lucky was clinging to me, standing close, his face close to mine, pressing against me seeking contact. He was stretching his neck and his head straight out, not like the 90 degree angle the way horses usually carry their heads. I knew he was in terrible pain. I told him the doctor is coming and it will get better and I will stay with you. Little Dinky stallion friend was close by. Lucky would lie down every few minutes, not roll, just stretch his neck and head straight out, breathing hard. Horses can not breathe through their mouth, only through their nostrils. So I thought OMG his airway must be swelling shut we were going to loose him. I would cut a piece of garden hose to poke it down there if I had to. Then he would get up again with this lost, inward look and come to me all clingy.

    So the the doctor finally got here. He said Yes it is a snake bite, a big snake, probably a Timber Rattler. The vet gave him an IV shot of Banamine and Dexamethazone and an IM shot of Benedryl. Lucky, who is vet and shot avoidant did try to step sideways and crowd the vet, thats what he does. So Jarad came and stood on that side, all three of us were on that side. Jarad made a fist with his thumb sticking out right at the spot below his ribs where the spur would go so when Lucky crowded he felt that and did not advance sideways (Cowboy Jarad told me this later). The vet first got the needle in his carotid vein and then attached the syringe. He was very kind and patient. Afterward, Lucky came to him and sought comfort and contact the way he had been doing to me. Then, feeling better he started eating hay. The vet was listening to his heart with the stethoscope and Lucky held up his front foot. That’s because he thought the vet would want to look at his hoof because lately I had been cleaning and doctoring his hooves every day.

    While he was there, I told him I was going to call you anyway to do a lameness exam but we can do that some other day. So I told him about the near hind foot, that 8 weeks ago I trimmed his feet probably too short and that was when the rains had begun and he had thrush in the foot and also a front foot. I had treated with medicated soaks and cured the thrush but he was still lame behind and steps short on that foot. The vet, who is also a farrier, gave me free advice. He said if it were an abscess, those tend to get worse fast, like, three legged lame within 10 days. He said you probably took off too much sole and he bruised his navicular bone. Those stay about the same degree of lameness for a long time. He said I should try mixing Reducine and DMSO gel and paint the sole with that. Then, switch to Keratex, a kind of sole hardener they use in Europe where it rains constantly. He said if it doesn’t get better call him and he will do xrays and look for trouble higher up. All this, including house call for $160.

    So horse-like, as horses are accident prone animals, my black stallion somehow found a nearly frozen snake and it bit him on the nose.

    I have no ill will and hope the poor snake made it to its communal hibernation burrow. In my experience Timber rattlers do not rattle, they are silent and lie still to utilize their rust, tan and black camouflage that matches the forest floor. Here was this poor snake trying to make it home for the winter, nearly dying in the cold. And a huge black animal comes and stands over it reaching out and mashing it with its nose. Its a good thing it WAS cold or it might have struck with every drop of venom it had. I have caught and relocated only two large Timber rattlers in all my time here. No telling how many I did not see.

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:40 am
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    I used to have 3 emus. They mate for life so Papa and Mama laid eggs. The males do all the family work so I let him hatch two eggs.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:41 am
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    At night I would bring in the chicks and keep them in a box so raccoons could not get them. In the day their father looked after them.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:45 am
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    These are beautiful green emu eggs. The females lay them all over, and their husband gathers them together by rolling them with his chin(lower beak) and sits on them. For 28 days he does not eat, he just sits on the eggs. The eggs next to chicken eggs so you can see the size:

    here it is:

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    • March 24, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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      I had NO idea emu eggs were so gorgeous – they’re like jewels or Lapis lazuli!!

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:50 am
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    So then I had 5 emus and we had quite a realationship since they lived in a pen that surrounded the house. At night the males make an exotic booming noise so deep you can feel it in your chest.

    I no longer have the emus. After the forest fire a tree fell on their fence and they left. Emus are not really domestic and they go wild instantly. They do fine since they eat grass. Even before I had my emus, emus were sometimes found walking around in the woods and fields. One day since the fire I saw one walking down the dirt road on this ranch. I don’t think it was one of mine. I tried to herd it and followed it for miles but it got away. There are some people down thr road that have emus, I think it was one of theirs.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:53 am
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    Daphnes troubles

    First of all you should know that I have always had an intuition that Daphne is actually the last incarnation of my sister Lesley who died of breast cancer in India. Since Hindus believe the last incarnation of a good person is a cow. So you can see how what I am about to tell you was the most worst thing. First of all, Daphne did choose me when I was leaning on a fence looking at a pen dairy calves for sale. A rasping tongue started licking my leg and I looked down and there was a beautiful golden Jersey had put her head through the fence to lick my leg. Daphne has been with me for 8 years now and because of her I have learned to make 7 kinds of cheese, yogurt, butter and icecream and I have shared milk with her calves. I love her and she loves me. So you can see how what I am about to tell you was the most worst thing.

    here it is:

    Reply
  • March 24, 2019 at 11:56 am
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    This happened 2 months ago. It was 32 degrees, north wind and light rain. At 5 am I estimate Daphnes calf was probably born. We found her lying on the ground and she could not rise to her feet. Having a downed cow is about the worst thing that can happen. The new born calf was lying there bewildered, wet and shivering so I put blankets from our bed on him. Jarad saw this great big bull calf and said she probably bruised her obturator nerve. My cowboy husband a few years ago made two cow dystocia videos with a vet and they sold them to ranchers. He said it is the nerve that holds cows legs together in a normal position and it runs past the birth canal along the pelvis bone. If the nerve is bruised in a difficult birth their hind legs can splay when they stand up they and can dislocate their hips and hocks. So he put hobbles on her hind feet connected with rope to only let her feet go 2′ feet apart in case she gets up. I gave her 5 gallons of warm sugar water and she drank it and 20 mg of Banamine by mouth for pain and inflamation. Later she had tried to get up and flopped on her side and facing down hill. Her heavy rumen was up against her diaphragm. She could not breathe or burp and was fixing to bloat. She gasped and moaned with every breath, I thought she was fixing to die. So we tied ropes on her feet and used the truck to turn her over so she could lie on her chest. We propped her up with tires so she could not lay flat. She was imediately more comforatable. We flipped her several more times that day. She could turn herself trying to get up so thats good.

    My retired dairy rancher friend in Oregon told me by email What if its milk fever? Thats when cows suddenly put so much mineral and calcuim into their milk and udder they cannot use their muscles of their legs. That’s because calcuim is a neurotransmitter that causes muscles to function. This is critical, they can quickly die of this. So At 4pm I gave her a tube of CMPK paste by mounth. 6 hours latter I gave her another one.

    I milked what colostrum I could get as she was lying on the ground but only got about 1/2 cup. You need half a gallon. So I went and bought some commercial colostrum and the calf hungrily sucked down the whole thing. The calf was fine, I just hoped I didn’t have to raise a bummer calf (orphan). Jarad said he never had to deal with milk fever because all he ever raised were beef cows and they don’t produce huge amounts of milk like this.

    That evening she finally delivered the placenta. Then she felt better and was stronger and wanted to eat so I gave her a small dish of wine, which she loves. But because she could not rise and defend her calf from the wild hogs and coyotes it was a long night for me. I coudn’t put Inga down there to guard her because to Daphne Inga is not a German Shepherd but a wolf…….. animals…….. 🙁 So I had Inga in her run by the house to bark and bark all night and drive off the hogs and coyotes. Not much sleep that for me night. I was so tired from rolling cows and moving corral pannels. I felt like I was run over by a large object. Then I realized all I ate that day was cup of coffee and an orange.

    At 7 PM that night she delivered her afterbirth after 14 hours. I had gone and gotten some penicillin because I though she would retain her placenta and be infected but didn’t have to use it. After that she was brighter- sure, they are still in labor as long as that afterbirth is inside- She was what is called a creeping downer, that is, a cow that can crawl around on the ground and doesn’t have to be turned every 2 hours. But she would flop into a downhill position laying flat out and then could not breathe, could not burp, moaning and was fixing to bloat which will kill them. We had to flip her a few times for that. Sometimes we had to use the truck or tractor. So after the afterbirth she was feeling better looking brighter lying near against a woven wire fence. So I put a sheet of plywood so she could not get tangled in that trying to get up. At 11 PM I gave her some more CPK mineral paste and she seemd OK and the calf lying next to her so I went back to bed.

    At 2 Am I went out and found her in a wreck, She had flopped down to a heavy metal gate and piled upside down against it head turned back. So I woke up Jarad and we took the gate off the hinges and it weighs about 200 lbs, cut the fence and pulled a T post so we could roll her out of there. Propped her upright again with the tires. I fed the calf some milk replacer because he was pestering us so we built him a pen out of corral panels. That morning she had flopped prostrate and head pointing downhill again, that same problem. So we flipped her and pulled her facing uphill again with the truck. I gave her the rest of the elecrolyte paste that morning. I saw her try to get up and it looked like she would have splayed for sure if those hobbles weren’t on her. She ate and drank well and with increasingly frequent tries to get up during the day. At 3 PM I looked out and she was up and walking around :–)

    When all this started I had told God, Sir your will be done and if she dies that’s OK, that’s life. But here is my little whiney voice again God asking that my cow friend live a longer time on Earth. And by golly, now I looked out and there she was, walking around with that her black calf hunting for a teat. It was a miracle.

    here it is:

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:57 am
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    I am his other mother.

    here it is:

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    • March 26, 2019 at 6:00 pm
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      Oh I forgot. One reason Daphne’s story is included here is because it is relaled to the fire. Because it was a national disaster the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) gave money to people who had lost livestock. Horses were not considered livestock although many horses and two people lost their lives in the fire. But cattle, sheep and goats are considered livestock. So my friend took pictures of my dead milk goats bodies because I could not stand to look, and I used the money from the USDA to buy a Jersey dairy calf. I like cow milk better than goat anyway. The ultimate meaning of all these stories it that often, even if we don’t realize it at the time, great difficulties in life often turn out to be for the best.

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  • March 24, 2019 at 11:58 am
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    God bless you, Melissa. You are a fierce tigress in defense of your companion animals, as I hope I would be in such a circumstance. You’re one of the bravest people I’ve ever known of. What a riveting account of a horrific fire.

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  • March 24, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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    The Holy Trinity of woman, bitch and mare

    Clouds hung low on the coast range hills in the blue hour of a rainy evening. The whippet shot like an arrow over the grass and Tamar lengthened her stride to follow the dog. I ducked low to hide my face from the stinging rain and with a slight shift of weight, turned the running mare into the wind. Easy as a bird lifts it’s wing the strength of the horse vaulted us over the crest of the hill. Down the lee side the dog raced and Tamar accelerated after her with a squeal of joy from me. Even her name gallops with power, Tamar, Tamar, Tamar.

    We stopped to breathe on the breast of the next hill. The little greyhound ran forward and back, and came up grinning from her run. She lifted her muzzle and looked from Tamar’s face to mine. Tamar bent to sniff her, then turning, nudged my foot. I felt our deep satisfaction with each other, the perfect balance of creatures, the holy trinity of woman, bitch and mare.

    At the cloud’s edge of lowering silver gleamed a faint purple radiance. It is the evergreen cloud forest, watered by fog in even the driest season. Into the luminosity we vanished, eager and without looking back. The wet drapery of branches took us in, then desire too was dropped. For who would wish to be in any other than this perfect world? Fir and Bay, hemlock and maple dripped damp on the floor of moss. The three of us stood among the timeless ferns and towering trees. In the womb of the world the redwood trunks are pillars of the temple. Down at their feet cold bright flowers burned. Wild pink orchids pearled with rain, blue violets and the yellow stars of sorrel.

    Tamar nosed the red rhododendron’s bloom then shook the water and pollen from her lips. Then stood with up pricked ears. The silence rang. She un-knew what I un-knew. The bitch listened with glistening eyes, then deerlike, lifted a foot. And in that moment….perfection… not attained, but yielded.

    We are priestesses. We serve the beauty that made the world. By being none other than what we are, the one great life enfolds us. There are no separate parts.

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  • April 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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    good goddess, Wombyn. Holy Trinity, Hail Mary Melissa ,,, I’m not fawning or anything,, but you just frikkin rocked the Entire living Breathing Cosmos…. I truly believed i am done incarnating as a human,,,, I have had it with being human… but you you have busted the mould,, , when I die, Hallellujah bye and bye, …I’ll be re-inventing my next Incarnation. . and for god’s sake what took u and Jarad so long to realize your Love!!!??? Eternal Blessings be upon you, all.

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