First Brush With The Law.

I was about ten. My family had gone to stay with my aunt and uncle and cousins, who lived in Pemberton, which is up past Whistler and very snowy in the wintertime. They had a hobby farm that included horses and chickens, and a big, warm barn with a hayloft.

We had spent the day watching the snow come down, drinking hot chocolate, and (for the kids) building snow forts and sliding down the steep roof of the house into the snowdrifts. Seriously, it was some kind of paradise in winter, that place.

But we were also watching the neighbour’s place. He raised cattle. One of the calves had gotten stuck on the opposite side of the fence from its mom. The snow kept falling and drifting, and the little guy couldn’t get back to his mom. “He’s a grump,” my aunt said, “But that’s a valuable calf.” She phoned him. He didn’t answer.

Night fell, and we had dinner in the warm alcove across from the comfort of the grandfather clock’s ticking. But my aunt didn’t stop thinking about the trapped little calf. We washed up after dinner and I saw her go to the big picture window and squint out at the swirling snow. She phoned the local vet, who averred that any calf left out that night would simply be so much frozen veal in the morning.

“That’s it!” she declared. “We are going to save that calf.” We got in the car and went over to the vet’s, where he gave us some emergency calf-nourishing stuff. Formula for calves, I guess. When we got back to my aunt’s house, she instructed us to get the big wheelbarrow from the barn. I grabbed a broom, presumably to hide our footprints, like Hermes stealing Apollo’s cows tied leaves to their tails to hide their path.

We trooped out to that calf, who was very cold and weak, hoisted it, with much effort, into the wheelbarrow, and took off for home, me sweeping carefully behind us.

In the barn, the chickens clucked in a sort of interested way, and we got the little calf to lie down on some hay and started feeding it the calf formula. It was ravenous, as you can imagine, and not a little confused.

But the horse kept getting in the way. Dolly, an ancient, swaybacked Appaloosa, was totally curious about what was going on in her barn, and kept poking her big, spotty nose in on us. So I grabbed her halter and led her far out into the snowy yard. Then I ran back to the barn as fast as I could.

But a short ten-year-old cannot outrun even the most ancient of horses, and as I ran through the snow, Dolly plodded along beside me. I arrived at the barn only to have to lead her out again. It was truly Sisyphean.

In the end, the calf was all right, and we went inside the house, feeling like we were channeling James Heriot.

The next day,m the grumpy neighbour was on the phone, saying hed have us all arrested for cattle rustling if we didn’t give the calf back right away.

So we gave the calf back and did not get arrested for cattle rustling. I sort of wish we had.

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