Born Into a Cold World

When I was a child, some snowy spring mornings we’d wake and come downstairs to breakfast to find a new-born calf or two lying on the kitchen floor. My father had been out in the middle of the night and had spotted their mothers off by themselves, and rescued the calves before they froze to death. They’d look up at us and bleat and sometimes even try to stand, so Dad would have to calm them, drying them with a towel.

calf2As I sat there eating my Corn Flakes, I often thought about how strange it must seem to the calf, being in this supernaturally warm space that their mother had never seen and would never see. But then I would think about that further and realize that the only other experience they’d had besides the womb was the snowbank. Besides the womb, everything was strange. This place might even be less strange and shocking than the snowbank.

And I would wonder about how it would feel to go back to their mothers, out into the cold world, and live out there for the rest of their lives, never coming back into this house. Would they retain a memory of this moment in the months and years to come? What would they tell the others about this place? Perhaps their stories would become a kind of mythology in the cow world: being born and spirited immediately off to a sort of heaven or hell or combination of the two that they might long for or fear but would never see again.

What would the other cows make of these stories? Would anyone even believe them?


2 thoughts on “Born Into a Cold World

  1. In my search for Gowan relatives, I found your Mother’s obituary and your beautiful tribute to her.
    My Father, Les Tibbles, Queenie (Gowan) Tibbles’ son, passed away on June 5th, 2014.
    As I read your story, I felt so sad, knowing how precious those final days and hours are.
    On June 4th, 2014, alone with Dad in the hospital room, I felt that I had no more words to say. I started to hum, and then to sing through all the songs he and Mom and I used to sing when I was a child. Around 11:00 pm, I left the hospital , and sadly, I did not return early enough the next morning to be with Dad at the moment he died.
    I am struck by the fact that you were also singing to your Mom during her final hours, and that both passed in early June. They would have been first cousins.
    I knew Aunt Win and I vaguely remember Queenie’s twin brother George. In retrospect, I find it strange that we did not have more contact with the Gowans, however, I grew up in Ottawa and Montreal. Travel and communication were not as they are today. My Aunt Verna and Uncle Jim are still alive.
    I send you my sympathy in this difficult time after your dear Mother’s death.
    Penelope Tibbles


    1. Hi Penelope, Thank you so much for your comments. I’m not much of a singer but I’ve always loved singing and singing has always been important in the family. In your branch of the family too, apparently. I think I met Tibbles while visiting with the Ted and Elaine Hall in Toronto during the 90s. Great to connect with you. Lee


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