Baxter Black: The mud bath
Just because some women have an occupation involving farming and livestock, it doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about their appearance, hair, skin and body care.
Kadie is one of them. She’s on a family ranch in Montana. Both she and her husband share the calving duties in the spring, but cold windy weather plays havoc with her beauty regimen.
Last Christmas, she clipped out an ad for a spa that included hot tubs, massage, pedicures, manicures and mud baths. She even posted a sample page from the ad on her bathroom mirror listing the services she might need.
At 4:30 a.m. one insomniac morning, she rose to check the heavy heifers. Her back ached and she couldn’t sleep.
Might as well work.
She pulled on her jeans, a wool shirt, rubber boots and a warm but ratty jacket. Before leaving the house, Kadie grabbed her flashlight and furry cap.
The weather had warmed up to 35 degrees two days earlier. Snowpack turned to mud.
Thank goodness the wind was only 5 to 10 miles per hour with gusts up to 20. The moon was covered by overcast but she knew the way. At the far end of the coral she saw a newborn calf laid out like a plank in the mud. He was shivering and shaking.
This, Kadie reminded herself, is the reason we go the extra mile. To her, each cow and calf mattered.
Mama cow was hovering over baby and was acting protective.
Kadie sensed this and picked up a “be nice” stick along with the sled rope with the same hand, the flashlight being in the other. She loaded the “dead weight,” 80-pound, slick, wet, slimy lug of a calf onto the sled. It wasn’t easy, considering she was juggling the flashlight and tapping Mama’s snorting incursions with the stick. She only went down once in the slop, managing to soak her entire left side in the process.
She wrapped the sled rope over her shoulder and leaned into the harness. The sled was sinking in the goop. It stuck. She tried again with a mighty tug, pulled the sled free and fell flat on her face.
With the strength inspired by desperation and fury, she slogged through the crusty bog like a winch pulling a dead turkey through a two-inch pipe. The light from the shed shone like a beacon as she drew her precious load to safety.
Kadie felt like Seabiscuit crossing the finish line just before she hit a patch of ice under the deep muck and went down hard. She tried to twist on the fall and almost completed a full-gainer and tuck and roll. It was a valiant try but it simply managed to roll her in the mud like a chocolate-dipped burrito.
Twenty minutes later, job done, she hobbled into the bathroom. It would be fair to say she did not recognize the face in the mirror.
Then the list caught her eye.
“I guess,” she said to nobody in particular, “I can cross out mud bath.”