An Old Gray Sweatshirt

       Things can go from good to bad on a farm real quick like, on any given day. We had planned on Saturday taking off for the woods and hunting morels but that was not to be. I had done the morning milking and chores at 5:00 am like I do every other day and all seemed to be normal. I went through all the chores like I always do, making sure everything that is in a cage has food and water. I fed the donkeys, sheep and goats. I made sure that Naomi had hay and fresh water. I also gave her grain and made sure that little Abigail was nursing like her big brother. I did the milking and returned to the house. Around 8:00 I went back to the barn to check on the new lambs and knew instantly that something was wrong. Naomi was down in her pen and trembling. I had never seen milk fever but had heard enough about it, to know this was what I was seeing. I went to the medicine cabinet in the milk room and grabbed a calcium drench and a bottle of calcium gluconate. I started injecting the calcium gluconate under the skin and giving the drench orally. She was going down hill quickly. She was shaking and foaming at the mouth. Her little lambs stood at the back of the pen, watching my every move and crying for their mama. It didn't take me long to see I was fighting a losing battle. I finally laid down on the hay with Naomi and held her in my arms as she took her last breath. I had never seen any animal die so quickly.
           Right about now you are wondering if I titled this post right or if I was losing my mind. Well, you see, I have this old hooded gray sweatshirt, the kind that zips up the front. It's what carries me through, from the heavy Carhartt jacket to just a t-shirt in the spring and then again in the fall. I had this sweatshirt on on Saturday. I hang it in the mudroom and grab it whenever I head to the barn. It usually is dirty from little muddy goat hooves and spilled milk on it. After Naomi had died and we took her on the hill to bury her, I knew I had two little lambs that I would have to teach to take a bottle. I warmed some milk in a bottle and as I grabbed that sweatshirt, I saw a stain that hadn't been there before. It was from where Naomi had laid in my arms, across my chest. She was foaming and frothing at the mouth and the stain was from her saliva. I thought to myself, I would throw it in the washer as soon as I came back to the house. I headed to the barn with my bottle of milk.
        Anyone who has ever tried to teach a baby lamb or goat to drink from a bottle, when they are used to their mama, knows what a battle it can be. They clench their little jaws tight and want nothing to do with the nipple. I started with the ram lamb and could not get him to drink, so I tried little Abigail. As soon as I picked her up she struggled against me but all of a sudden she smelled my sweatshirt and the smell of her mama and she snuggled right up against me, with her faced pressed against where her mama had been just a little while ago. It was all she had left. With tears steaming down my cheeks. I gently opened her mouth and she began to suck on the bottle. Thank goodness for that old sweatshirt. Since yesterday, both lambs are now thriving on goat milk. They are starting to hop and play, like little lambs should. I am their mama now. And guess what..?? I'm not washing that sweatshirt for awhile either.


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