I casually asked him what he’d been doing. He told me he’d left the house at 7 a.m. on horseback with his teenage son to find a cow-calf pair spotted the day before. The calf didn’t look good. After an hour of riding, they found the cow. She was limping, and the calf had shrunk. They could see a tangled piece of barb-wire had snagged a hind leg and dug in. It had also blocked the calf’s access to the udder. It took another 30 minutes to head and heel the cow. The wire interfered with a clean heel catch, so it wasn’t easy. They finally managed to get a rope around one hind foot and pull her down. They switched the head rope to the front feet and stretched her out.
It was getting hotter; both men had broke into a sweat. With deerskin gloves and fencing pliers from the saddlebag they cut the wire loose, a wrap at a time. The calf was weak enough they could catch him, but couldn’t get him to nurse from the trussed-up cow. It took another hour to trail the cow back to the house while father and son carried the calf over the pommel.
Most good livestock people know how that feels. It’s work, it’s hard, and you have to know what you’re doing. But for a period of two to three hours, this man, in demand by kings and pawns alike, was completely absorbed in his responsibility as shepherd for one of his flock.
That speaks to the heart of those of us in his shoes. It also demonstrates the profound difference between us and the racecar driver who wrecks his car, a computer programmer whose power goes out, or a cook who drops the toast on the floor. They can just walk away, get a new one, reboot, or wipe it off on their pant leg.