Tuesday, May 4, 2010

April 30 blog update –

During the Fall of 2001 Andrea continued to push herself physically, trying to regain strength and motion in her grafted limbs. She’d been an avid hunter before her accident, harvesting deer and elk for her family’s meat supply. She wanted to go hunting again. She loved hiking in the mountains; she and her dad had always enjoyed going hunting together. From the time she was a child, Andrea could mimic the sound of an elk calf or cow. When riding range in the summer to check on our cows, she and her horse were able to get very close to the elk, and one time she was in the middle of a group of cows with young calves, several of which came right up to her horse, out of curiosity. If she was hunting elk in the fall, a traveling herd of elk would always stop and listen when they heard her making the high-pitched eeeep-eeeep of an elk calf. After her burn injuries, however, with throat damage from the fire and from the ventilator tube, she was no longer able to make this sound.

She was able to get out in the hills several times during hunting season in 2001. Hiking was good physical therapy, helping her body get back into shape, and gradually forcing more movement in her knees and ankles in spite of the damaged tendons. After several unsuccessful hunts, she eventually got her elk, and then she spent parts of 4 days here at the ranch, cutting and wrapping the meat, with only a little help. She didn’t have much endurance yet, and was totally exhausted each day after a few hours cutting meat, but she didn’t want much help because she wanted to prove to herself that she could still do it.

The hunting was a milestone for her in regaining some of her abilities. It meant a lot to her, and to all of us, to see her excited and happy. And as she processed the meat at our kitchen table, it was a joy to me, seeing her working again so confidently. Her physical strength and dexterity were slowing increasing. It gave her hope that she might eventually be able to again do some of the things she loved. She realized it wouldn’t be easy, and that she’d have to find ways to compensate for some of her handicaps, but she was determined that those handicaps will never hold her back.

She came out to the ranch several times the next spring, to see the cows and help in small ways. She had some “favorite” cows that always enjoyed seeing her, and on several occasions she took Emily out in the field with her to look at the cows. Em was learning to be quiet around the cows, so as not to alarm them, especially when they had young calves.

Lynn and I had been amused at Emily the year before, when she was staying with us for a few days that spring while her mama went to Salt Lake for a check-up. Em rode with us in the feed truck each day when we fed hay to the cows. She wanted to pet a calf, but some of the mama cows are very protective, and most of the calves are skittish. One calf, however, named Roddenia, was a bold and curious heifer that often came right up to me whenever I walked through the cows and calves to check on them. I always look at every calf, to make sure none of the calves are sick. I thought Emily might actually be able to pet Roddenia.

So she and I quietly got out of the feed truck after Lynn fed the cows. While they were all busy eating their hay and not worrying much about their calves, we walked toward Roddenia, where she was playing with some of her little friends. We stopped, a safe distance away, before the other calves might become alarmed and run off. I told Emily to just stand quietly and not make a sound. I said, “These calves don’t know you, and they might be afraid of you.”

Roddenia became curious about this little person standing beside me, and came over to see us better. Emily reached out her hand to the approaching calf, and whispered, “Don’t be afraid. I’m Emily Daine.” I smiled and tried not to laugh out loud. Em took me literally; the calf was afraid because she didn’t know Emily, and now that Em had properly introduced herself, the calf would not be afraid! Indeed, Roddenia came boldly forward and sniffed, then licked, the 3-year-old child’s outstretched hand!

Emily got to see the cows and calves several times the next spring when Andrea came out to the ranch, and watched from the sidelines as we branded and vaccinated the calves. Andrea was regaining strength and was able to help us with that project.

As summer progressed, Andrea was also able to ride a few times with me again, riding Breezy to help me move cattle. She was glad to have a chance to see her horses—especially Snickers, her good old cowhorse. Even though she never rode Snickers again, that old mare still holds a special place in her heart, with lots of good memories from all the days of riding range and chasing cows. They’d been a good team, and Snickers had earned a well-deserved retirement.

A lot of things changed, for all of us, with Andrea’s burn injuries (since she could no longer help us full time on the ranch) but we feel blessed to still have her with us. Our priorities changed, as we realized that many of the little things we thought were important before, or worried about, are no big deal in the big picture scheme of things. The important things in life are love, family, compassion, and thankfulness for the blessings we often take for granted.

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