The Goblin Child was playing with one of the calves when I got there. Laughing and giggling as her fingers got sucked on, she was as happy as the kids always are to play with calves. Once I finally forced the children out there.
We laughed and talked about how cute and gross the calves are for a bit. Then I looked at the rest of them. My count came up short one. A second and third count showed the same. With two gates to get through to get out of the barn it didn’t seem possible. We searched the barn. Then counted again. Still one short.
Outside I sent the kids to walk through the tree row while I drove a 4wheeler to look across the big open fields. Maybe he had just gotten out and would be visible as he ran across one.
I knew exactly which calf it was. They had all gotten ear tags the night before. We had named this one Styx. This morning he had refused a bottle. His voice was hoarse from calling for his mom. Not being able to raise him didn’t mean she hadn’t been a good mom, while she did have him. He wanted her back. Of all the calves he was the one who wasn’t beginning to recognize us as the food source and a good thing.
I was positive he was long gone. Running the way scared calves do, blindly and full out.
It made me sick. I knew it was all my fault, no blaming the kids on this one. After feeding I had carried the feeder out of the barn, then gotten caught up in other things. I was the one who hadn’t remembered to carefully lock both the gates.
We searched all morning. I spent the time asking God to take care of of the poor little calf. Whether that meant us finding him or him finding a herd of cows. He didn’t deserve this. Then we had to leave, go to town. Hurrying home we searched the rest of the afternoon. Not that we had any chance of seeing him if he was laying in the yard. A small black calf in a shaded spot would be as invisible as nature intended them to be. Hidden from us as well as predators. In cooler weather a calf can hide for a couple of days and live.
In this heat, without having had breakfast for sure, maybe no supper the night before, he had little hope. Laying in shade, maybe. If he had taken off running, not a chance. Maybe Styx was a bad name choice.
That evening we took milk out to the remaining calves. Finally accepting the smaller number, we mixed enough milk for what was left. They slurped happily at their milk. The children squealed and giggled as calves chased them around wanting a bottle. The ruckus was loud and enthusiastic. Then I had to step out the barn door for some reason.
Out the door I happened to glance up, and there was a calf in the middle of the drive!
It took a bit of looking to realize it was indeed a calf. Then my beleaguered brain had to spend some time trying to figure out how another one of the calves from the barn could have gotten outside. It was a few moments before I realized this was our missing calf!
All day while we drove all over, while we walked through the trees, while we had to have walked right past him a few times, he had been laying there. Perfectly still he blended and stayed invisible, just like calves are supposed to do. It must have been the sound of the other calves getting their meal that drew him out of hiding.
He was curious, but not brave enough to come up to me.
I yelled for a child to come help. Then sent him around behind the calf, to help push him towards me. We herded the calf towards the door to the barn. The calf shot out the side. We cornered him against a gate. My soon opened the gate. I tried to push the calf through.
The calf couldn’t resist the bottle any longer. He latched on and was not letting go.
We lead him back into the barn to join the others. His reluctance to eat from the bottle was gone. He was starving. The bottle got handed to a child while I ran into the house for more milk. Our prodigal son had returned.
My prayers had been answered. God is good.