Friday, June 11, 2010

Sue Weaver: A Typical Day in the Life of an Atypical Writer

I’ve written for publication since 1969. You’d think I’d have it down pat, but I don’t. I write slowly and am easily distracted. So, on my birthday, I resolved that beginning June 1, I would write at least 1,200 finished words a day — or else — and for one week I’d tally the day’s events to see where I squander my time.

June 1, 2010

5:45 a.m. — I’m up. I’ve checked Ursula at 90-minute intervals throughout the night, and I check her now. Ursula is my friend Lori’s immensely overweight pet ewe who was due to lamb on May 28. A former bottle lamb who took road trips in the family truck and rode in the cab of the tractor while Lori’s husband made hay, Ursula has next-to-human DNA. She appears to be carrying triplets. I do not want anything to happen to her.

Ursula, prelambing

6:00 to 7:45 a.m. — It’s 87 degrees, with a 92-degree heat index; it’s going to be a sultry day. I milk and then feed the animals. A jumping spider nips my hand while I check the water tanks; it hurts, and I don’t like it. But I buck up and lead the goats out to graze. Teasel, a cantankerous goat who is attempting to move up from her dismally low spot in the goat hierarchy, sneaks up and bashes me on the side of the hip. For an old woman I am fast and manage to lightly boot her backside as she scuttles away. Hopefully, she gets the message.


7:45 to 9:30 a.m. — I lead the rams to the goats’ clover-carpeted paddock. Goats spurn clover; sheep love it. As I close them in, Morgan, my Sable wether, saunters out of the dairy goat shelter where he’s been hiding. He needs a pedicure, badly, so I shut him back in the dairy barn and trot to the house for hoof-trimming gear. When I return, Morgan has scaled the pipe gate between the dairy shelter and the buck paddock and is being amorously and aggressively courted by Martok, my Nubian buck. Martok’s companion, Uzzi, bashes Morgan with his horns. I rescue Morgan, who has emphysema and is puffing like a runaway freight train. When he doesn’t keel over, I trim his hooves, then shut him out in the pasture with the other goats.

With hoof trimmers in hand, I decide to trim the goats in the buck pen. I begin with Uzzi. Martok, who is in a Morgan-inspired sexual frenzy, shoots me with a stream of urine (this is how buck goats say, “I like you”). I stop, wave my arms, wipe my hip and leg, and bawl him out. He instead pees on his face, then scrubs his forehead against me — many times. I trim three sets of hooves in record time and plop in the water tank as I go by, noting that Wooby, Lori’s white ram, is standing by the goat shelter instead of eating clover.


9:00 a.m. to noon — I shower, run a batch of laundry, do some online research, and then write like a banshee, determined to make up for lost time. I continue checking Ursula every 90 minutes.

Noon to 1:30 p.m. — I glance out the window. Wooby is in the same spot. I investigate. He has somehow crammed himself between the woven wire fence and the shelter, and he’s cooking in the blazing noonday sun. He’s wedged himself into the tightest possible spot and stuck two legs through the fence. I push, pull, coax, threaten, and cry. It doesn’t help, so I race to get my tool chest and cut away a significant part of the fence, allowing Wooby to collapse in a heap on the ground. I sprint for the hose and hose off his legs and face and then his body. He gradually comes to, shoves himself to his feet, and sedately begins grazing clover. Using fencing brads, I secure the remaining fence directly to the goat shelter so that nothing gets stuck there again. It’s now 97 degrees, with a 103-degree heat index.


1:30 to 4:00 p.m. — I check Ursula before heading back to work. She’s off by herself, introspectively studying the wall. Note to self: she’s going to lamb. I write with frenzy until the dratted Internet server goes down. I step outside and hear a baby goat shrieking. She’s squeezed through the fence and now can’t get back to her mom. I reunite mother and child. Server is back up, so I write until John comes home from work, then fix salad for supper.

5:00 to 9:00 p.m. — We feed and water animals. Ursula, who is housed in a three-sided hay shelter adjacent to our unused round pen, is digging a nest in the bedding. I rig up temporary lighting and prepare a jug (a small, private pen where ewes bond with their new lambs), then haul an armload of cattle books to the round pen and take notes. By 8:00 p.m. Ursula is having contractions. I offer encouragement and Tostitos. Whippoorwills call as the fiery red sun sets across distant ridges to the south. I lay aside my notes and set up a lounge chair. As I settle back to wait, I think life is goooood.

9:30 p.m. — Ursula is in serious labor and getting cranky. She stomps to her companion, old Rebaa, who is nested in bedding, throws herself down directly atop Rebaa and pushes. Rebaa’s legs are windmilling; Ursula throws back her head and is bearing down, gritting her teeth. I save Rebaa; Ursula stomps out into the darkness of the round pen. I grab a flashlight and follow.

10:00 p.m. I’m sitting on the ground behind Ursula. Her amniotic bubble has burst, and the first lamb’s hooves are out. Its heels are up. This is a seminormal, back-feet-first delivery, but I’ll have to pull the lamb once its rump appears. Ursula strains. When it’s time, I grasp the lamb’s back legs. She pushes, I pull him out. Him. Another ram lamb, but he’s big and strong. As I strip the goo from his muzzle and place him by Ursula’s face, she and I agree she did a good job. Ursula cleans the lamb. I ease back, awaiting the next delivery. But wait. . . . She’s starting to pass birthing tissues — there is only one lamb!

11:00 p.m. to midnight — Ursula and son are settled in their comfy jug. I’ve trimmed and dipped his umbilical cord, and he’s sipping his first warm meal. I stumble back to the house, grab a quick shower, e-mail the good news to Lori, and survey my day’s work. I vow to write more tomorrow, but keep a running score of what I do? No way. It’s too daunting. I simply don’t want to know.

Ursula and her new son

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including The Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, The Appaloosa News, The Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and The Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and Get Your Goat! to be published in 2010. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.


Paul Jurzin said... to read.
Thank's for sharing with us


Paul Jurzin
Wire Fencing

Sue Weaver said...

Thanks, Paul. :o)

Sue Weaver said...

By the way, re-reading this entry I see that I said the sun set in the south. I'm not sure where THAT came from but rest assured, the sun sets in the west here in the Ozarks, same as the rest of the world.

Baannie, Ursula's mother, appears to be preparing to lamb tonight. If not, tomorrow for sure. She's my last hope for a ewe lamb this year. Will it be an all boy year? Surely not!

Sue Weaver said...

Baannie made it a clean sweep. Yes, another single black ram lamb and a difficult birth to boot. So as of tonight, lambing is over for this year.