Difficult the calf, who was always so hard to feed and who ironically never got the scours, has come down with pneumonia. Her tall bony body is thumping with it. The man said calves never recover once they start to thump, that I should just let her go. He said it kindly. Like many of the farmers around here he misjudges my small blonde foreign-ness. He is a good man though. I like him. So I forgive him that.
When I was going to school in New Zealand we used to sit an exam called University Entrance. This was during one of the years that my mother was very ill, bedridden, and with five brothers and sisters and me being the eldest girl it was a frightful year for me as far as schooling went. All my homework was done very , very early in the morning. Often sitting on the beach, my eyes turned to the page, my ears on the open bedroom windows of my little brothers and sisters. When they awoke for breakfast and to get ready for school I put away my books and managed breakfast and getting them ready for school, then on my bike I got and rode up the hill to school myself. So Though I never got behind in my work I quite simply did not have time to excell. Excellence takes hard work and support and Time. So, this was the period that I realised that each failure is a lesson. Each time you got a bad score on a test it was like a challenge to find the way to do better on the next test. I kept devising and revising strategies to not only succeed but to oust the Average from my Above Average reports.
It was possible to be accredited this exam. You could pass on the strength of your in-school exam scores throughout the year. If you were not accredited you went into town to the National University Entrance Exams in a big hall on five consecutive days and sat your six exams. If you did not pass the exams sitting, then you returned to school after the summer holidays and started the whole year all over again or you dropped out and did not go to University.
On this day the teacher, Sister Marion, passed out an envelope to each girl in class. It was late summer the last few days of school. Christmas was coming. A convent school – we wore simple red skirts and white blouses. I loved that uniform. Inside the envelope were our marks. I opened my envelope amidst the rustle and then straining silence of the other girls, the salty summer breeze stirring the curtains in the classroom. My heart sank, I had missed being accredited by three points. And Sister Marion had very sweetly written me a wee note saying she understood I had had a very difficult year and she looked forward to seeing me again next year and would do everything she could to help me succeed. She just assumed in the nicest way possible that I could not pass the exams by sitting them in Town.
Her sweet note made me SO MAD that every night for the next month after feeding the family and reading to the Littlies and getting them to bed and tending my mother and cleaning up and all those other jobs I studied furiously. Every inch of the walls in my bedroom were covered in cramming notes. My father tested me over and over again. On anything every night. I turned the deaths of kings and the pertinent dates of Wars into nursery rhymes. Bedtime stories were discourses on why Hamlet was such a wet blanket. I worked on the beach and in boats and chanted as I rode my bike to the shops.
Then I sat my exams and passed with flying colours.
Difficult developed breathing problems very fast yesterday morning so I started antibiotics and put him back on the intensive electrolytes. The man who owns the calves I am raising looked at Difficult yesterday and said – That one will be dead by morning.- I was shocked. I told him in no uncertain terms that I have worked like a dog to keep these animals alive and I am not giving up on this last one. Not at all. He said – well you brought the others through I suppose. I have never seen a calf recover after it has had blood in its stool (Though of course he did not say Stool) so maybe you can save it. But it looks bad. I have never seen one recover when it is thumping like that.- He looked at her and shook his head. – Nope,- he said, – Dead by morning.
He was just trying to teach me to be a bit tougher I think. Bless him. He is a lovely man. A really decent man, the family has had some terrible hits lately and I am happy to raise the calves for them while they find their feet and I understood in a way what he was saying but REALLY!! He misjudges me, I do not give up without a fight and there is plenty left to fight for.
Don’t tell me I can’t do something. Don’t tell me I will fail. I will fail on my own terms thank you very much.
I picked The Difficult Bobby up, she is a long heavy leggy thing and carried her to another pen in the big barn so she did not infect anyone else, laid down More straw, brought in water. Nanette from Australia sent me some Rescue Remedy and it arrived that same morning so I dosed her with that through the day and during the night. I force fed her electrolytes, stroked her vigorously for as long as her mother would and helped her drink her big bottles laced with yoghurt and egg. And Difficult IS alive this morning. Standing UP alive. Not good, this is true, but alive.
I restarted at 4.30 this morning and now it is 9.07am and she is still alive, standing up chewing on hay alive. Though she is in deep trouble.
So once more into the breach my friends!
Don’t you wonder sometimes how people actually see you. I remember years ago a man looked up and saw me walk into my friends house with all my beautiful children -the youngest baby was on my hip. Something ran across his face, stalking his jaw. I did not know him well. He smiled at me and said – I did not know you were a mother. I just thought you were one of the beautiful people.- Naturally I smiled back and kissed him, children giggling from my hips to my knees. We are still friends the man and I.
Oh and my phone is sitting in a basin of rice after falling in the calf water last night. I had it propped up with the phone light on so I could see without turning barn lights on. Just so I don’t get Above Myself it throws itself into water!
I am sorry this is late this morning. I wanted to tell you these things but I needed to finish the chores first.
I hope you have a good day.
ps Here is a picture of me feeding the calves when they first came. Sent by a friend this morning.