And Then There Was This…

It’s standardized testing season for school kids and my school is no exception. We are in full swing and IT IS BRUTAL! I don’t know who is more stressed out from testing, the kids or the teachers. I am also starting to believe that it’s called testing, not because the kids take a test on their knowledge but because it tests the patience of every adult who comes in contact with the kids who are taking the tests!

I’ve also noticed that standardized testing sorts the kids into categories. First you have the kids that want to do a good job, be perfect and get that amazing score, then you have the kids that know they have to take the test and are resigned to that fact, so give just enough effort to look passable without putting out full effort. The last group actually has a couple of sub-groups in it; it is the group of kids who just don’t give a crap! Now in this group, as I said, you have a couple of sub-groups. First there is the group who are behavior problems on a good day, smart enough to do well but this test and school in general are just something they are legally bound to be a part of and they are going to give zero effort and torture the test proctors in the process. Some of this group may be special ed kids but a lot are not, they just. don’t. care! Second are the full-on special ed kiddos, the majority of whom would love to do a good job but lack the skills and/or academic capacity with which to do so and the trouble making hooligans who will do anything NOT to test.

And then there was this…I got these pictures from my mom today. It was branding day and I soooo wanted to be there.  The weather looked beautiful, the perfect day to brand calves.  I know it’s a lot of work and I sometimes hate seeing the little calves get poked, prodded and branded but I also love it and miss getting to help.  I miss riding out on my horse, gathering the cows and calves, working and sorting them, corralling the calves to be branded and then getting to work.  I miss the sound of the chute catching a calf and screeching as it is turned over so you can give those babies their vaccinations and necessary markings to prove they are yours (yes cattle rustling still happens, so you have to brand).  I miss the hubbub of people working, hollering for the vaccine gun or the branding iron, rushing to fill the syringe with medicine or get the iron back on the fire to keep it hot and I even miss the beller of the little calves as they get caught in the shoot or as they are finished and set free.  I love how each calf leaves the chute a little differently. Some calves bolt out of there like lightning, some stumble out, dazed and confused, some come out bucking as if they were in a rodeo and some just trot out, shake it off and look for mom!  I love seeing the cows hunt for their babies so they can go care for them and soothe them.  Most of all I miss my family and working side by side with them, accomplishing a necessary job, creating new stories to tell about that “branding in spring of 2017” and having a delicious branding dinner prepared by my grandma.

It’s moments like this that make me reflect and make me kind of sad.  Grandma doesn’t prepare a huge dinner anymore, dad doesn’t move as quickly or nimbly as he once did and the help has changed too.  My uncle used to come and help (that’s how he got his front teeth knocked loose) and my grandpa isn’t with us anymore to make us laugh at a joke or to make us cringe with the string of curse words that he just let loose!  I also wonder if I’m seeing the last branding my parents will have.  Their business gets harder every year between government regulations, fluctuating cattle prices, weather and them not getting any younger, I wonder how long they will be able to keep this up and I long to be there.

So with that melancholy ending, I will get ready for another day of standardized testing wishing I could be corralling calves instead of kids.

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Beautiful blue skies and branding calves.  SIGH!  Thanks mom!

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