The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Greetings to everyone in western Illinois. With the full moon out, the coyotes have been a howling like crazy, these past few nights. They sound kind of eerie and much like they are running in a pack.
One neighbor said he saw a bunch of those beasts running together but I can't say as I've ever seen more than a few in a field at one time.
With 37 new born calves on the ground and 88 cows yet to go, I'm a hop'n those hungry yapp'n critters don't find our calving grounds.
When coyotes first became noticed on our farm, back in the early 70's, we had a bad winter and they worked over some of our calf crop.
As me and my young son, who was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, checked the timber pasture for calf health, we noticed calf tracks veering off in the snow to the south east.
My son carried a Red Ryder BB gun, which he was just learning to shoot for protection from those ornery coyotes he had heard howling of late.
It was about dusk, with limited light left, as we trailed the calf tracks to our fence line and beyond. We could see coyote tracks at the outset, which must have spooked the little bugger. We had Charolais and Simmental bloodline in our herd, at that time, which gave them quite a race horse gait.
The temperature was well below zero. I cursed whoever was responsible for re-introducing coyotes back into western Illinois.
I left my son at the fence line, "well armed for the worst" and followed the trail straight to a crick one eighth mile away. The water level had been higher a few days earlier and froze at that height. As the water receded it left a shelf of ice with no immediate supporting water underneath.
The calf hit that ice, broke thru and down into the water it went. Being unable to get out because of the surrounding higher level of ice, there he waited, a dismal sight.
The water, at this time, had gone down enough that it allowed the calf a good soaking but not a drowning. He was in the water, under the ice shelve, and out of the wind. I'm a thinking that condition saved him from the coyotes and from a quick frozen death.
I got down into the crick, broke thru the ice shelve again, fished out the calve and threw him over my shoulders. By the time the calf and I got one half way back to the fence and timberline it was dark with a slight moonlight and the calve and I was a sheet of ice. The wind was to my face, raw and bitter. "Dog nab", I thought, for those blasted coyotes.
As I stumbled and worked toward the tree line I noticed my young son pausing-holding his ground sort of speak, and then racing backwards a few feet. He would then pause again and duplicate the routine. It being dark I couldn't make out for sure what he was up to, but for sure he was lively at it.
As I got near him he seemed to recognize me with a sigh of relief and came to my side. His firearm did not rattle, as it had earlier, indicating he had lost some of his BB's.
My lungs burned fire iron hot from breathing hard the cold air in the exertion of carrying the calf. We took the calf to the house and put it in the basement with a heat lamp on it to dry off the ice and warm it up.
After I took off my frozen clothes and somewhat caught my breath, I told my son I was proud he stayed put to provide help if'n I needed it. Then's when he told me what he was doing taking a stand and moving back then taking another stand and not wanting to give up his territory or his helpless father.
It seems in the darkness, at his young age, he couldn't make me out. With the calf slung over my shoulder, and my head a pok'n out betwixt it's legs he knew the "coyote was a work'n me over" and he was tak'in aim with his mighty weapon to plug the monster.
For all he knew, he said later, I was a bear and his father was a goner. When I kept coming ice and all, he would walk backwards-cock the gun-and fire off another volley. He did this a number of times but the evil beast kept coming at him. Now he was next on the bears menu.
I'm right proud he did the honorable thing and didn't cut and run and leave his poor Paw to the whiles of that ugly monster even though he presumed me dead.
Most of his shots were way out of distance for the BB gun, until he recognized me. What I"m really glad about was that I didn't start his training with a 22 caliber rifle or a .410 shotgun for that matter. Even so it was well he was not too good of a shot with the BB gun, as it were.
The calf lived, my son is grown and has his own family he's a training, and I spent the balance of the winter fightin pneumonia. My lungs, according to Dr. Pogue and x-rays, still carry scars from that silly event called pnumontitist or something like that.
I would have been money ahead to have left that 4-legged bovine for coyote bait, but then that's not a cattleman's nature.
My wisdom for this day is a quote from Charles Dickens - "Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts". Of if'n that don't suit you then think on what Thomas Carlyle said, -"Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world".
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work". (Thomas Edison)
Have a good Valentine's Day, buy the Mrs. some flowers and remember this: "The heart has it's reasons which reason knows nothing of". (Blaise Pascal)
Smile and see how quickly your day brightens up.And you young fellers-take up coyote hunting for a winter sport-the cow calf folk will love ya.
Catch ya later,