Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Of Patience and Politics

Three green went down in early February. In  farmer speak, “went down” means that the animal lay down and wouldn’t get up as opposed to “put down” which means that the farmer killed a sick animal because there was no hope of recovery. We should have turned Three green into sausage last fall, but somehow, we didn’t get around to it. By February she was very thin and walked as if every step hurt. She was obviously pregnant and she could deliver any day. Together, Dave and I stood her up every time we went out to the barn and turned her to the other side when we allowed her to lie back down. We laid hay directly in front of her, and held a water bucket while she drank. We gave her calcium to combat hypocalcemia, one of the most common pregnancy problems and then gavaged her, giving her calories and water through a tube to her stomach to combat pregnancy toxemia. 

The days dragged by. She didn’t get better. Eventually even when we stood her up, she couldn’t hold herself upright. Finally, we gave her the drug that would induce labor and delivery within 36 to 48 hours. I wasn’t at all sure that we could keep her alive that long. 

The morning of February 15 when we went out to the barn, Three green was licking a white lamb. Somehow she had delivered, and managed to turn around so that she could reach her lamb with her tongue. She only seemed to have milk in half her udder, the nipple that was exposed when she lay in her most comfortable position, so we only stood her up a few times a day and we didn’t force her to turn over. I was sure that this meant that she would become weaker and weaker, no longer strong enough to stand on her own, making “putting her down” inevitable.

 The lamb nursed enthusiastically. Three green mothered her well, licking and encouraging with soft rumbles and baaas.  We continued to feed mother and baby, forcing Three green to her feet several times a day. Then one morning when we opened the big barn door, Three green struggled to her feet. Her baby immediately got into position and nursed well on both nipples. Then Three green settled herself very carefully back down, nudging her lamb out of the way.

This week, we moved Three green and her lamb into the group pen. She walked the twenty steps to get there with her lamb bouncing around her. Now when feed her, she walks slowly (and painfully) to the feeder. She stand for her lamb to nurse. She walks to get water. Through her own strong mothering instincts, and the persistence of her lamb and her shepherds, Three green has survived to birth and raise a lamb. With patience and persistence, a hopeless situation can improve.

Since the election I’ve felt hopeless, as if there was nothing that I as an individual could do to stop the flood of hate and un-American behavior, nothing that I could do to help our neighbors. No one answered my letters to political leaders, their phones are always busy. I sign petitions on line and hope that they actually are seen by the people who are supposed to lead the country. 

About a month ago, I realized that other people are standing up to help. I received an email from a composer who would like to work with a group of young women refugees and immigrants and young women whose families have lived in the US for generations. Together she hopes that they can explore dreams – the American Dream, their dreams for the future, their actual dreams. 

Two weeks ago, a sculptor contacted me, looking for a Somali weaver who would be interested in working with him on a commission to create a piece of sculpture for a city park. 

Last week, a woman from my community asked what she could do to help the new immigrants in town. We put together a planning meeting and decided to run a focus group including local leaders of the different ethnic groups in town as well as leaders from the medical community, the schools, the business community, the city government, and the turkey plant, the biggest employer in town. Our goal was to learn what problems the new immigrants were facing right now and how that was affecting the rest of the community, but also what the feelings of the non-immigrant population were and how that was affecting the rest of the community.

A young man from the Historical Society is presenting a talk on the effects of WWI in Otter Tail County between the immigrants and the locals at that time.

I received emails from three of the legislators I had written to.

Yesterday, I noticed that the lighted sign outside our local Cenex gas station was flashing a message that read “Peace begins with a smile.” 

Perhaps I have been too impatient. Three green is recovering in spite of my foreboding. People who are kind, who care for their neighbors as for themselves, who don’t define stranger as enemy are beginning to stand up for their beliefs, to find ways to help. With patience and persistence, a hopeless situation can improve.

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