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Moo-ving on in
Reporter warms up to unexpected guest
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Ali Mason helps warm a newborn calf in her mother Debbie Hall’s kitchen Thursday morning. The calf was found in the snow near their home in Patrick County. (Contributed photo)
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Friday, January 31, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The calf in the kitchen ...

The dogs didn’t know what to make of her, and neither did I.

It’s definitely odd, if not downright unnatural, I thought after getting out of bed and finding her sprawled out on the floor.

Timidly, the dogs and I formed a semi-circle around her. They looked her over, sniffing to make sure their eyes weren’t deceiving them. (I knew better than to sniff.)

In a complete stage of bewilderment, the dogs — Jack, Daisy, Lil Bit and Blackie Meracki — looked at us. They were unable to verbalize the question, but it was apparent from the puzzled looks in their eyes.

“Who let the calf in?”

Who indeed.

The man checks on the cows throughout the night, but even he isn’t sure how long she lay in the snow after being born on one of the coldest nights of winter. Half frozen and only barely alive, she was caked with ice and hardly breathing when he found her.

What’s a farmer to do but scoop her up and bring her home?

Their first stop was the garage, where he positioned her near a space heater. But it’s chilly out there even near a heater, and she didn’t appear to respond. “It’s warmer in the house,” he thought.

And so, in came the calf to lie on a warm pile of covers.

It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, I guess, and fortunately (for the calf and the man), I slept through all of the commotion.

I mean, come on. This is me, the person who is semi-fanatical about maintaining a clean house. The person who is known (and most likely mocked) for attaching warning notes to the back door, daring family and friends to come inside with muddy — or otherwise nasty — farm shoes or boots. Otherwise, the notes caution, “be prepared for whatever fate awaits.”

Martha Stewart is my hero, for goodness’ sake.

And yet, there is a calf ... in the kitchen.

That is certainly an experience that most people have never had, and those who have probably wouldn’t admit it. What do I do? I share it on social media, with pictures, while wondering in the back of my mind what Martha would do.

The daughter is up, sitting beside the calf. “Look Momma,” she says. After only a little prompting, I looked ... I mean really looked. What I saw was a defenseless baby, cold, shivering and — no doubt — frightened to be inside a house, too. It was as alien to her as it was to me.

Soon, the blow dryer was going full speed to try to warm the baby. We rub her until our arms hurt to get her blood circulating. She tolerates the dogs, the dryer and the rubbing, and her condition improves. Still shivering, still a long way from surviving, but better.

The man goes out to feed the other livestock; the daughter goes to shower; and I am left alone with the calf in the kitchen.

I sit beside her and cradle her fuzzy little head, gently rubbing around her eyes and face. At some point during our alone time, I realize that I am face-to-face with God’s own imagination — and it is good.


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