It’s officially calving season at the Veeder ranch. The momma cows are having babies in the protected draws and on soft piles of hay, two or three or more a day now.
The ground has been clear of snow nearly all winter, until yesterday, when the wind whipped in a fresh dusting — and we’re not complaining. We need the moisture. But we’re watching those babies close, making sure they’ve found a spot out of the wind to be born.
It’s like an Easter egg hunt every time we bring the girls out to help spot little black dots laying beside their mothers. Every one we find, they squeal “awwwe” and “ohhh” and then, my oldest and I, we get a little nervous as my husband steps out to put a tag in their ears. Both girls, even at their young ages, have witnessed the protective nature of a momma cow, and they don’t want their dad to come out on the losing end.
It’s one of my favorite times of year, little miracles up on their feet within minutes of being Earth-side. Bucking and kicking and running the next day, the warm spring sun on their black backs. Green grass poking through the ground.
Just in time.
Just like the bloom of the crocus after a long, brown, cold winter.
Yes, the crocuses are here, some a little regretful about their early appearance I would imagine, but here nonetheless. Because that fuzzy little purple flower is resilient. And brave.
And, on a warm spring day, if there was anything I need to do — if there were chores or phone calls or supper to put on the stove — all of that is trumped by my desire to fling open the door, pull on my muck boots and climb the hills to find them.
You all understand this — all you Northerners here counting the days until spring after the holidays are over. You understand what the crocus means to us here.
You understand the sweet smell of dirt that accompanies the search and anticipation of spotting that first purple petal emerging from the cold, damp, brown earth. We’ve all been watching the snowdrifts disappear and reappear outside our front porches as the months dragged on, and so when we spot one, we feel as though we’ve never seen a purple that deep, a petal as soft, a color so vibrant.
That first spring breeze catches our hair and the sunshine warms our shoulders and so we can fling off our flannel shirt or spring jacket and let the warm soak in, crouching down on our knees to inspect the new arrival — and we’re 8 years old again and we have our grandmother’s hand and we can hear her voice through the breeze… “Oh, now look at that…” Our eyes move from the first flower and across the hill to notice that there are purple dots everywhere.
And we want to collect them all for our pockets, pluck them for our baskets or our buckets and bring them home to proudly display on windowsills and kitchen tables and countertops. But instead we pause as our fingers run over the fuzz of the fragile flowers that reach for the sky in groups, holding hands with a promise to face this uncertain sky together.
Because life is short and a little piece of us feels that for all this flower has given, there should be some left out there to live it.
This is our shared ritual, our childhood reinvented, our hope for a season renewed.
We anticipate. We make time. We know it’s coming every year.
But how do the crocuses know?
How do they know the ground is ready and the sky won’t forsake them?
How do they know that mommas desperately need flowers just as much as daddies need to pick them for her?
How do they know when children need a treasure hunt and grammas need to lead the way?
How do they know just when to make a quiet and brilliant entrance, to finish thawing us out?
How do they know just exactly when we need them?
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.