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Robert L. Heichberger: Spring days on farm are a time of rebirth

There was a hue of silvery pink streaming across the eastern horizon. It was morning chore time on our family farm in the early 1940s, when I was a young boy. The setting was in the sublime rolling hills of southern Erie County. This picturesque scene of the brilliant morning sunrise seemed to point to what was going to be a nearly perfect spring day in May.

Morning chore time meant that the dairy cattle needed to be milked, watered and fed, and the cattle stalls needed to be cleaned with a layer of new bedding. After this was done, the cows were let out to pasture to graze in the succulent grasses.

Our pasture went from the barn to the lower part of the farm, all on a hillside, going down nearly a mile to the flowing southern branch of Cazenovia Creek. The pasture was framed with a deep, thorny, briar-filled gully.

Farming chores filled the daylight hours with the hustle of spring plowing and planting. The fragrant smell of newly turned-over soil had a refreshing aroma. Indeed, spring is a time of renewal and reawakening.

Chores were a family affair and each member had a job to do, from predawn to evening twilight. Of course, school days found us children attending the one-room country school, which was nearly a two-mile walk from my home. School work and farm chores made for a busy time, and sometimes an unexpected eventful one. Take, for example, that day in May when I was 12 years old.

That morning, as usual, the cows were let out to pasture. Normally, the cattle had a habit of going to the farthest corner of the pasture, nearly a mile from the barn. During the course of the day, the herd would eat its way up the hillside toward the barn. Usually, by early evening, the cattle were all back near the barn waiting for grain feeding and milking. But on that particular day, Daisy was not with the rest of the herd. Where was she?

We knew that Daisy was an expectant mother. My usual job was to fetch the cattle from the pasture to the barn. Immediately, I went down the hill to find Daisy. Dairy farmers know that cows are private when it comes to delivering their offspring in the out-of-doors pasture. Daisy was no exception.

I searched, but could not find Daisy. Then, suddenly, off in the distance, I heard the pleas of a bleating baby calf crying out to its mother. I followed the sound. It took me to the deepest and almost impassable part of the gully.

It was impossible for the newborn, with its weak, wobbly legs, to follow its mother up the rigorous incline. I could see that Daisy was frantic as to how to help her baby.

I knew immediately that I would need to carry the 80-pound calf up the steep, slippery ravine to the flat surface above. And so, the three of us slowly made our way up the hill to the anxiously awaiting herd at the barn. It was a struggle, but we finally made it.

By that time it was dusk, and a spectacular sunset filled the western sky. The baby calf had dinner from Daisy, and a warm bed of straw next to her mom. Daisy was proud of her baby and the entire herd seemed to take pride in the new arrival. It had been quite an eventful day!

But the beauty of the sunset seemed to say that “all is well.” For even in nature, with a helping hand, all things seem to work in marvelous ways.