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On a recent cool September morning, I stood on the deck of my home and watched a newborn calf take its first steps. The attentive mother stood vigil over her new calf, lovingly licking it clean. It took a couple of tries, but the wobbly calf finally managed to stand and get its first meal. It was a good start to the day.

Some may ask why farmers/ranchers spend hours working in the sun, the rain and snow. As the old saying goes, money can’t buy happiness, but sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make you the happiest, like watching a new calf take its first step.

I can watch babies for hours. There’s nothing better than seeing calves in a good old-fashioned game of pasture chase, or lambs and goat kids bleating as they bounce about. Then there’s the grunts, snorts and floppy ears of baby pigs, and the bucking of new colts. It makes you feel as if you’re doing something right because the babies are healthy and strong, as are their mommas. 

I try not to be too melancholy, but that recent morning watching the new calf get its first glimpse of the world made me realize how lucky we are to live in the Ozarks – the rural Ozarks. There are seldom “traffic jams” on my 20-minute drive to work, and if there is it’s because someone is just driving a little slower than everyone else on the rural road, and there are very few places to pass. I tend to take my time too; no need to speed into work in the morning if you leave in plenty of time. I enjoy the evening commute to unwind a little from the day and let the sounds of traffic and blaring train horns that rumble past our office fade. Plus, the deer are pretty thick out my way, and with runt coming soon there’s no need to speed down any rural road.

Along the way, I see some of the best the Ozarks has to offer. Leaves are starting to get their autumn hue. As dry as it’s been over the summer, I hope we get to see a landscape filled with orange and red; we’ve had enough brown for awhile. 

During hay season, there’s nothing better than rolling down the windows and the aroma of freshly cut-hay that fills the air. It can only be topped by that first deep breath when you step outside on a frosty winter morning. 

On my drive, the same drive I’ve made for about two decades, I don’t notice if there is a new vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway, but I do notice things like new calves. I’ve scouted out a few heifers along the way that I’ve really liked. There was a nice crossbred blue roan heifer up the road that caught my eye when she was just a calf. The owners liked her too because she’s been around for several years now and has had many calves of her own. 

There’s a new neighbor a few miles up the road who has some Longhorns. Their impressive bull stands along the fence most evenings. I will have to stop and introduce myself one day soon. 

For a couple of months, I watched another neighbor completely transform their previously abandoned and overgrown piece of property into a beautiful little farm. There was an old barn behind the house that even closer neighbors, neighbors who have lived there for many years, didn’t know existed until the brush and vines were cleared away.

I also see remnants of old farmhouses. Every spring long-forgotten beds of daffodils and irises still rise and bloom. I think about who might have planted them there years ago. They may be gone, but the flowers they cared for are still enjoyed today.

Living in the rural Ozarks and enjoying the simple things in life might not be for everyone, but not everyone has seen a newborn calf take its first steps on a cool, September morning.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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