Monday, January 10, 2011

Facing Fear

"Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway."- John Wayne

We put our son in a tough spot this weekend.  It was one of those moments when I felt like a momma bird convincing her baby to go to the edge of the nest.  Then, at the moment he trusts her enough to come to the edge, she pushes him out.  He gives her a brief look of sheer terror, and then all is forgotten when he realizes he can FLY.

We gathered calves this weekend, to move them to their winter pasture.  Calves are green in the ways of the world.  They're young and dumb.  They're irrational, and prone to acts of stupidity.  The key to getting them to move where you want them to go is to work them quietly, gently guiding them down the fence line and into the catch pen.  When this doesn't work because  they make a sharp left turn at the gate and stampede back to the opposite end of the pasture, you repeat the steps again.

 And when it doesn't work the second time, you move into phase two of the operation: fits of anger and substitutionary cuss words for the ring leader that broke ranks and led the rest astray.  When you are too winded and out of breath to verbalize your frustration anymore, you move right into phase three: bargaining with God. "Lord, if it would be your will to get these calves into the pen today, I'd sing your praises for many days to come."  Finally, two minutes later, you move to phase four: throwing some hay into the feeder, and watching them high tail it to the corral of their own accord and free will. Ten seconds later, when the last calf is safely in the pen, you slam the gate, breathe a sigh of relief, and shout, "thank you Jesus!"  Then you begin singing the "Hallelujah Chorus", and you wonder why you didn't try the hay method  the first time.  After all, who doesn't respond positively to food? 

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit about gathering calves.

No, no, I'm really not...come to think of it.

Next, you must repeat the aforementioned steps to load them into the trailer.  If we were loading cows, it would be a breeze.  They'd load right up. No problems.  But, alas, calves are but mere juveniles...and nothing comes easy with them.

My husband assigned the positions for loading in the makeshift corral.  He put my son on the front lines.

He said, "I'm going to push them to the left corner, and up close enough to use the crowding gate, if they break right at the last second, you turn them around, and don't let them get passed you."

My son nodded.

On the very first attempt, they broke right, and passed right on by my son with no regard for his authority.

My boy gave his dad a look that said, "I'm only a mere mortal, Dad. I can't stop a freight train."

They regathered the calves for the second attempt.  Again, they broke right at the last second, and plowed past him, only this time, one of the calves jumped completely over the corral fence, and loped down the lane.

My boy was devastated.  He threw his hands up in the air and said, "Dad, I can't do this!"

Here's the jumper:

We calmly put him back into the pasture, and then into the corral, and started back at it again.  My husband put my son back into the exact same spot.

He gave us a look of sheer terror!

"Dad, I can't do this.  They're gonna blow right past me again!"

When his father didn't budge, he looked at me with a trembling lip.  His little face was covered in fear, sweat, and anger, and he was biting back tears of frustration, trying his hardest not to give into his feelings.

"Mom, maybe you should stand here, instead." His voice quivered.

"Dad asked you to stand there, and that's where he wants you."

Mad, dejected, and brooding, he stood there again, except this time was different.

This time when they broke right, he took all of those emotions, and fear, and frustration, and he channeled them into determination, and he charged at the calves with his sorting stick.

Then the coolest thing happened. 

They turned back, and loaded right into the trailer.

And relief washed over his face...and over my face...and over my husband's face.

My boy did it.  He faced his fear, and stood his ground.

I was so proud of him.

And we successfully loaded the calves in less than ideal loading facilities.

Here they are, unloading into their new winter pasture.

A view from the top end of the winter pasture.

Looking back, it was a tough moment for me, as a mom.  I knew our boy was having a rough time, and my comforting instincts wanted to take over.  But I knew I had to stand with my husband, and let him teach our son a lesson in courage.  If we wouldn't have put him back in that spot, he never would have gained the confidence of knowing that he could master his fear.  He had to learn to stick with it, even when things got tough. 

When a boy accomplishes something that is greatly challenging, and he learns to overcome fear in the process, it brings him one step closer to being a man.

The greater the challenge, the sweeter the success!

These little life lessons are good for a boy, but they're sure hard on a Momma's heart.


  1. Im so proud of Dylan! I know exactly how he felt. Calves Can be retarded little buggers.