Pulling weeds on Mother’s Day, an FFA banquet horror show averted, and a 7 a.m. ambulance visit before the big branding
By Brenda Mack-Cain
My name is Brenda Mack-Cain; I am a mom, veterinarian, and rancher’s wife. My husband, David Cain, is a 5th generation rancher. We live on the ranch where he was born and raised, south of Mountainair, New Mexico. Many years ago, the tiny town of Mountainair was considered the pinto bean capital of the world. Von Cain (my husband’s grandfather) moved to this ranch in 1939. He purchased it with the proceeds he received from selling his homestead at Jornada de Muerta, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. As the drought came, and the pinto bean farmers left, Von was able to put together a substantial spread. Sadly, the ranch has since been divided and of course subdivided. Today, we reside on some of the divided portion.
We run a small cow calf operation with Hereford cows with Angus and Hereford bulls. My husband takes care of the ranch, but it is definitely a family affair. He is an excellent steward of the land and the animals. We joke that everything around here is on the “big bale” program, as there isn’t a skinny animal on the entire place. We are passionate about our Western heritage; everything from riding our pastures horseback, to roping and dragging our calves to the fire.
We live here with our two daughters, Dalli Von who is 11 and Macklee who is 6. The girls love to compete in rodeos whenever there is a free weekend. Most mornings, I leave the ranch at 7:00 a.m. to drop off my oldest daughter at school and arrive at my veterinary clinic in Belen, New Mexico by 8:00 am. Yes, I have an hour commute, but I have no traffic to contend with.
Many people have romantic notions of what it is like to live on a cattle ranch. The reality is, there is always work to be done. On a small operation like ours, it’s not just punching cows from the back of a horse. It is everything from fence building and pipeline leaks to untimely animal emergencies. Many times, it is the work that no one else wants to do like cleaning out a drinker full of nasty smelly black algae water or pushing brush on a loader in the summer heat, with gnats swarming you. However, we feel blessed because we love what we do. We hope and pray that we are doing a good job of passing on our love of ranching to the next generation.
12-Day Journal of Brenda Mack-Cain
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
My Aunt Sandie is visiting from California, and she wanted to come and see the ranch. So, Dalli and I brought her home last night. We gave her a grand tour and fed her some pinto beans for dinner. David set out early this morning and took Aunt Sandie to see some of the new baby calves and check waters. When they got back, we headed to town. We delivered Aunt Sandie to my mom’s house, and then dropped Dalli off at school. Once at work, I had a busy morning, with appointments and surgeries. I did get a lunch, which is unusual. I ran errands, including dropping off some goodwill items and of course rewarding myself with a Starbucks (my favorite) for lunch. Waited for Dalli to finish fiddle lessons and then headed home. She amazes me with her musical ability; it doesn’t come from me.
Thursday, May 11
Today was David’s birthday. I brought him home his favorite, a green chili cheese burger from Lotaburger. He was a little leery of his present, a wireless storage tank monitor to alert him if he has a leak. He would much rather drive and check all the storage tanks personally. He had a rough day removing two of the neighbor’s bulls that were on us. When I got home, we left the kids at home and took off to check waters. I am not sure if he wanted my company, or he just needed an automatic gate opener, since it was his birthday!
Friday, May 12
I had the day “off”. I ran to Albuquerque for a doctor’s appointment and stopped by Hobby Lobby and Costco. Headed home with a small detour to my mom’s house to say goodbye to my Aunt Sandie and Aunt Pat, as they will head back to California tomorrow.
Our neighbor’s kids called when I came home and they needed to borrow an extension cord to run a pump. A rabbit had fallen into the cistern and died. There were also bees streaming into the house through the fireplace. We sealed off the fireplace with plastic and tape. The memorial service will be held there tomorrow, for our neighbor “GG”. I said we would put balloons on the mailbox at the highway, so people could find the place.
Saturday, May 13
The girls and I went to town to get balloons. We made it home just in time to attend GG’s memorial service. David had known her his whole life. She became an integral part of my life when I moved to the ranch 17 years ago. She was our closest neighbor, and we relied on her for everything, from borrowing milk to watching our kids. She was way more than a neighbor to us. She lived on the ranch alone, and took care of her cows until her stroke at the age of 81. She will be greatly missed. We came home in a melancholy mood. Macklee said it best, “I am happy and sad, happy we knew her and sad she is gone”
We cruised around the ranch in silence. We found a heifer on the wrong side of the fence, and put her back. We spent the rest of the evening assembling a clay pigeon thrower that we received for Christmas.
Sunday, May 14
Mother’s Day! My day! So on my day we get to do all the things I want to do. We started by spraying weeds. David sprayed and I pulled the large weeds. It is a never ending battle. We then went to pick up the girls from our other neighbor’s where they had a sleepover. (When you live where we do, we are so thankful to be surrounded by such wonderful people. We may not always get much rain, but we are sure blessed with great neighbors.) We painted the swing set, cleaned the chicken coop, and then we went on a picnic to the only place on the ranch, where the pines grow. We then “tried” to shoot some clay targets. Had BBQ’d steak for dinner.
Monday, May 15
The clinic was very busy today. I didn’t feel well, I think I have sun stroke from yesterday. Dalli and I stopped to stare at a bobcat on the way home.
Tuesday, May 16
Saw the rest of a golden retriever litter. Last week, I had surgically removed some yarn from the intestinal tract of one of the puppies, and it was so wonderful, to see how great he is doing. Then, I interviewed some high school students for a summer position.
Dalli and I got home late. Ran up the road to see the neighbor’s horse. Owner said he wasn’t normal. He is a miniature pony that is a very easy keeper, but is a little short on manners. He was lame on his front feet. Both feet were full of hardened sap and I couldn’t even find his frogs. We discussed a farrier visit and a weight loss regimen.
Wednesday, May 17
Got home early and started to do my workout before heading to the FFA banquet. My workout was cut short by an emergency call – a heifer that needed a c-section. We loaded up some supplies and the kids, and we headed to town. By the time we were done, I was a bloody mess. David and the girls still wanted to go to the banquet. He kept telling me that FFA was all about agriculture and everyone would understand, but I declined. The girls were mortified at the thought of me walking into that banquet with so much blood on my face and clothes. I dropped them off and headed home for a shower. I don’t mind getting really dirty, but I like to get clean, when I am done, ASAP!
Thursday, May 18
Busy morning; dealt with a dog with a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. Raced home to be in Mountainair for Macklee’s awards banquet. Met my dad at Macklee’s school. She was given several awards including likely-to-be a future veterinarian. Came home and visited with my dad, and started some branding preparations. In bed really early.
Friday, May 19
Long day. At work until 1 pm. I was supposed to leave at noon. Raced to Costco for drinks and Little Caesars for dinner. Came home to prepare breakfast for branding tomorrow. Dalli had done an amazing job cooking desert and Spanish rice. Still had to make enchiladas. Family is all asleep while I wait for the quiche to finish cooking.
Saturday, May 20
The craziest day of all. Our branding started out resembling all the previous years, but quickly became memorable. It is pretty bad when the ambulance is at your house at 7 a.m. I finished preparing breakfast, while David went to saddle horses. We had gathered the first pasture and were bringing the mommas and their babies to the house pens. A couple of the cowboys raced off to hold them at water. This is where it all fell apart. When Duane kicked his horse, “Ole Paint” broke in two. It was a full fledged bronc ride, he bucked like an NFR saddle bronc horse. We knew there was a problem when he tried to stand, twirled around and collapsed back to ground.
They went on with the cows and his horse, and Magic and I kept him company while the Cowboys went to get the Artic Cat to transport him. He knew his pelvis was broken as he could feel some grinding and it hurt to move his left leg. On a side note, I did do an excellent job of keeping my horse, “Magic” from trampling him further while we waited. They came with the Artic Cat but there was no way he could sit, so they went back to get a flat bed. We loaded him on the flat bed and hauled him to the house. Once he was loaded, I galloped off to call his wife and 911.
He had a posse keeping him company while we waited for the ambulance. I told him I was glad he had eaten breakfast because they weren’t going to feed him in the hospital. He told me that he knew I had served quiche this morning and cowboys don’t eat quiche. If I would have been quick enough on my feet I would have told him it wasn’t quiche it was egg pie!
The ambulance carried him off before we branded a single calf. The rest of the day went well, however a somber haze hung over us as everyone worried about Duane. He had pelvic surgery and is doing well, but will be wheelchair bound for the next 8 weeks.
The girls wanted to flank calves and our friends Eric and Marcelo helped them run a girl crew all day. They were amazing and they were so proud of themselves.
Sunday, May 21
We were off to a little slower start this morning. We cleaned up branding stuff and did some paperwork, an attempt to find the desk in the office. We took a small nap, and then took Wayne’s pickup to him at Gran Quirva. (He had driven Duane’s truck home yesterday). We came back and David checked his heifer to find she was in labor. We had promised the girls we would shoot some clay pigeons, so while we waited on her, Dalli shot 25 rounds.
Then we all went back to check on the heifer. She was quite a ways from the house. We pushed her a little way towards the corrals, before she laid down. We headed back to the house, for some chains. We only had one strap, as I had taken everything to the clinic to be cleaned after we did that c-section, and I hadn’t brought anything back yet. David was able to sneak up on her and place the strap. We pulled the calf. She was a cute little Hereford heifer, that wouldn’t have come on her own. We came home and ate quesadillas, then headed back out to check on her again. She was up and nursing, so we sighed deeply and smiled. A memorable weekend. Thanks for accompanying us on a brief journey into our crazy life.