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Sleepless in South Dakota

The Bean likes to get up before dawn. Well, I don't know if he likes it exactly, but his tiny tummy demands that he do so, and sometimes loudly, because when you are growing at rapid rates you need to eat, and you need to eat often. Since I am where food comes from, that means I now like to get up before dawn too.

All last week the days were brick oven hot by midmorning, but the dawns were cool and misty, pearled fresh with rosy light. By some trick of physics, sound carried on the dew dappled air, and we could hear every animal on the ranch as if it were in the yard -- the bray of the donkey brothers, the sheep and their lambs, the milk cows and the bottle calves.

That's right, milk COWS, plural. Despite the early hour, the Bean decides he is not interested in going back to bed, so we head out for a morning walk just as the sun climbs from its bed on the eastern horizon. We have a destination. I want to visit the new milk cow, Caroline. (As a side note: it is my belief that all dairy cows should be named for women commemorated in song, as singing while milking not only helps to pass the time, but supposedly also speeds the milking process along. It makes sense doesn't it -- I mean, who doesn't want to be sung to by name? )

Caroline is beautiful. She has flanks of tawny cream, with a chocolatey face, and wee curved horns. So far she is not interested in being my friend, but she's only been here two days, and I have grain on my side. I figure it is only a matter of time. She stands on one side of the fence, her baby at her side, I stand on the other with mine. She is young, only two years old, and a newish mother, like me. In the fresh dawn breeze she looks content nibbling at the tips of yellow clover that tickle her nose. The Bean and I are pretty content too. He is cradled close to me in his fabric sling, and from a distance I look as I did 2 months ago -- like I am two people in one.

For the last few months of my pregnancy I joked that I was a 'we.' Now the Bean and I are two separate people, no longer physically bound, but we still go pretty much everywhere together.

I watch Caroline's calf, who is probably only a little older than the Bean, tumble through the tall grass, playing as his mother eats. He meanders away, and she doesn't look up. She knows he is safe. What is there to worry about in a field of soft greenery, and nothing else for miles?

I kiss the Bean's fuzzy head where it rest, just below my collarbone. He has fallen back to sleep. He snores lightly, with tiny baby breaths, and moves his hands and legs in his dreams. He has only just begun to lift and turn his head, his neck muscles wobbling mightily with the effort. It will be a while before he can frolic across a field, and even longer before he can do it without me following close behind.

We head back up the hill, the gravel crunching beneath us, the sun brightening over our heads. Perhaps an early morning nap is in order. Or maybe we'll have some breakfast as the kitchen fills with light. Later, there will be laundry to hang on the line, more naps to take, songs to sing, and a floor to sweep. Tonight, when the man of the ranch gets home from fencing, we'll go for a ride in the pickup and check the cows in the far pasture. After, we'll eat supper, then lay in the breeze of the big window as the light fades back to rose and then to purple, and finally to a deepening blue.

I don't mind being a 'we' for a while longer, even if it does mean missing out on sleeping in (or some nights, sleeping at all.) Someday he will run across this very field, calling the cows in to be milked, a tin milking pail hooked over his small arm, his small legs moving through the thick, wet grass. He will be a big boy, doing his chores all by himself, while his Mama watches from the kitchen window. How can I miss sleep when he will only be my little Bean for a short time? Certainly I am tired, but I am not weary. This day, like all others, is a gift. I kiss the Bean again, happy to still be holding him so close to my heart.

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