A young life hanging by a length of twine
Last month was calf hide and seek, this month it’s tag.
I went to feed the other morning, and a calf had crawled through broken manger boards and was standing by the haystack chewing on a foot of baling twine hanging out of his mouth. Wanted to address gun control, gun violence right here, but first need to get that twine out of the calf before he swallows it all, plugging his gut. The race is on.
He chews and runs. I run and grab. Twice around the hay stack, up and down along the manger until he figures how to climb back into the manger to the field with his mommy. His clambering over the manger boards gives me a chance at a feeble grab at the dangling strand, pulling out a few more inches.
Following twine and calf through the boards I find myself between cows who want their breakfast. They do not move away from the manger. They are not concerned I am among them, but I am. To announce myself I calmly, quietly repeat, “nice cows, nice cows, help me catch that little guy.”
Moving cautiously around the protective mothers and their huge hind legs I make a few quick discrete grabs at the slippery twine, getting enough out it now touches the ground. The calf’s back hooves start to catch on it, slowing him and pulling out even more. The chase moves to the sagebrush, away from the manger.
Sagebrush snags even more twine and slows the calf. Soon I am close enough to stomp one foot on the twine and reach down to grab a firm hold. After one missed quick back hoof kick aimed at my head as I bend over, the calf darts off leaving his twine. Tag over I finish feeding, check the ditch to break ice for cow water, then head back to the house.
There are guns in my house. They belong to my spouse and our boys. They use them for hunting, sporting clays and to warn off coyotes. Once, if I was a decent shot, I may have shot a pack of dogs taking down one of my pregnant cows. But before I could figure out loading the rifle the neighbor shot off a few rounds from his .22 scaring off the dogs.
I do not own a gun for self-defense. I do not have the mind set to kill someone with one. Which is what a person must be prepared to do if carrying it for self-defense. Then arming more people with guns around children is a terrible idea. Also who protects innocents from a protectors’ gun when it goes bad. The former LA police officer killing his own illustrates that danger.
Do I know how to control gun violence? No. It seems to be a symptom. An extreme symptom of fear, despair, of feeling disenfranchised, of encouraged hate, of anger, frustration of not being heard, understood or respected. Maybe controlling that could control our guns.
What I do know is, nothing is served by escalating America’s gun culture into a personal arms race. Now I have to fix the feed manger, and we need more snow.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.