The Choices in Inevitability

By Graham L. Wilson

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included at this link: see my profile page.

Note: I wrote this as a school assignment in English 30-1, finally being able to do any creative work within it.

Much is made on how a person responds to a given situation, and how one can overcome challenge or struggle in order to achieve their goals or work out a superior outcome. The basic principle being that the key to individual success and making the most out of life is in the application of ourselves and our ability to take risks and overcome adversity. This is overlooking the inherent realities that much of what happens in our life is beyond our control, and that the polarizing factors of entropy and continuity are in the end the ultimate drivers of our fate. Factoring this in however does not lend the statement as completely irrelevant, under the consideration that an equal amount can be made of doing all that lies within our power to do, even with the acknowledgement of certain omnipresent inevitabilities. Such is the basic principle behind concepts such as safety precautions, triage or harm reduction – the courage to face the harsh realities of life while still stepping up to do the right thing.

On the morning of March 22, 2013 I was awoken by my father restating the call of my mother that there was "cow trouble." All attuned to the possible complications during calving season, my brothers and I quickly got ourselves up out of bed and dressed to deal with the still quite wintry day. The problem as it presented itself was quite plain in the form of a large black calf lying in the snow and ice in front of our barn, all on its own and still covered in the wetness of the womb. It was a heart-wrenching sight, seeing it looking so weak and feeble, as the cold winter lashed out at us, and with no sign of the calf's mother or indeed any of the other cattle in sight. The challenge therefore was facing us, perfectly real and absolutely critical. It was time to act. My brothers and I quickly surrounded it, brought our arms around it, and with a huff hoisted it into the air and brought its shivering mass into the near-by lean-to shelter. Once gently eased back down to the ground and quickly covered in straw, we knew that we had accomplished the first necessary act. Now for phase two.

As my mother set off the prepare a solution of milk for the calf, I and a few other of my brothers set out to locate the rest of the herd and to identify the lost calf's mother. We found them a good ways away by the nearby highway in their favourite spot for winter sunbathing. None of them seemed concerned or aware of the plight facing one of their number back in the lean-to, and the other calf born in the previous week jaunted around gleefully. Out of the two remaining suspects, obviously excluding the mother of the previously born, it became obvious that Lilly, our decade old matriarch, had been the one to give birth. This came as little surprise to us, as the signs had presented themselves upon last night's inspection, though we had not guessed so immediate a birth. Nevertheless, our objective was obvious: get them home and attempt to get mother and calf to recognize each other. Unfortunately, they all seemed quite happy with their current location, and only through a combination of hay-based bribery and forceful persuasion did we bring them back to the windy corral area.

Once there, we were faced with the even more daunting task of isolating Lilly and locking her into the lean-to with her calf, and in the end after much struggle this was also only managed through bribing almost the entire herd in there with her, and then slowly removing the stragglers. This tactic had its disadvantages, as at first Lilly only seemed to have a mind for food rather than for calf. After some effort, including shaking the calf to bellow, we managed to get the two reacquainted and they began to call to each other. That was an encouraging sign, and adding in that my mother had managed to get a small amount of warm milk down its throat, we held out some hope for a happy ending. However, we knew to be prepared for the worst, and so left the scene in the knowledge that everything needed to play out for itself, confident in the fact that we had done all that we could.

Upon inspection later that day, it became clear that all our best efforts were not going to yield success. The calf had not moved from where we had previously dragged it, and simply lay on its side, covered with straw, with its mother resting nearby, showing a now considerable degree of concern. It was plainly obvious that the calf was going to die, so we simply set out to finish feeding and watering the others, before bringing a separate bucket of water to quench the thirst of the unlucky mother. Later in the evening we ventured out and found that the calf had indeed met its decease, and so began the arduous task of disposing of the body, after first releasing its grieving mother. Aching all over from the days exertions, as well as the blustering turmoil of the past week, we returned home. Now it was time for the final reflection. Analyzing the events of the day, it became obvious that the calf never stood much of a chance, and had an uncanny similarity to a similarly transitory arrival two years before. We believe the calf had been born prematurely and had developmental problems, which heralded its early death and the mother's reluctance to bond to it. Its fate had been inevitable.

What then, does that make of our efforts? Was it pointless to have dragged the calf away, to have fed it the milk, to have brought is mother back to it? Would we have been better off leaving it alone and not having bothered, having ran away from the grief and pain, knowing that it was going to die anyway? If it was impossible to win, was it worth playing the game at all? The answer is an obvious and emphatic no. It was not pointless and it was by no means unnecessary. Without our intervention the calf would have died cold, miserable and alone. Instead, it died in the warm with its mother by its side. We gave it the best death we had it within us to give. So no, it may not have been a great accomplishment, it certainly was no triumph, but such little modest acts of compassion and care are what makes up the great majority of noble deeds. It is not just in the quest for glory, of taking great risks or conquering mighty challenges that push us forward and mark us what we are. In the end, what matters most is what we do when we know that we can not do everything, and that despite the known result we persevere through the strife and despondency and do the final ultimate decent thing. May we all meet our ends alongside loved ones cognizant of this simple message.

March 24, 2013