Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

Calving Season – A Cowboy’s Heart


Dad with calf

Daddy with Calf. Art by Adam Bunting


It’s calving season on the ranch. This painting of my dad conveys the essence of his spirit and heart. Tears sprang to my eyes the first time I saw this piece. A surprise gift for my parents, Bunting conveys Daddy’s spirit and heart. A treasure. Artist Adam Bunting painted this portrait from a photo taken by Sherry Bunting

It’s calving time on ranches all over the world right now. Not only do these calves represent life, they represent generations of bloodlines, untold hours of caring for their mothers, the mothers before them, and on and on… In honor of the heart, spirit, and weeks without sleep that comes with calving, art and poetry to honor all. In honor of the history and hope that is calving season:

Daddy with calf. ©Sherry Bunting

Daddy with calf. ©Sherry Bunting

A Cowboy’s Work

by Tirzah Conway

A cowboy’s work is never done,
Like Sheppard’s among the sheep
No matter what, up with the sun,
Not really much time for sleep
You stay up all night to help out the weak
Even ones that won’t make it through
Let’s face it, that’s what makes you unique
Without it, you wouldn’t be you
You may not cry when you lose a calf
But it’s not because you don’t care
You hold strong for other’s behalf
And inside you feel only despair
You know deep down you can’t save ‘em all
And it’s not really up to you
It’s never stopped you from hitting a wall
‘Cause that’s what helps pull you through
But instead of giving in you move to another cow
It’s how you know calving season is here
You just step by her side, furrow your brow
‘Cause that’s life out on the frontier
You will always be there for her
That’s what being a cowboy is all about
Stay by her side till her calf is astir
No matter your fears or doubts
And seeing the calves running around
Was worth your all sleepless nights
You watch the play without making a sound
It’s what helps you keep fighting the good fight

I grew up watching Daddy bring calves in to be warmed, to be fed, to be cared for if their mother wouldn’t take them. On the prairie, this means calves in the kitchen, calves in the tub, calves warming in the oven, and calves in the mudroom. I see my dad, his Carhartt’s and cowboy hat dripping with snow, bringing Mom a calf to warm. In Cascabel, on the Arizona on the ranch of my childhood, this meant Daddy telling me to approach the cow slow and quiet, curling on my knees on the ground and remaining still. This meant trails of afterbirth glistening in the sun as I marveled at the intricacy of the colors. 

In all places, the life blood of the ranch and of those who make their lives on this land, course through these newborn veins. 

Cascabel Ranch, 1978

Me, Cascabel Ranch, 1978



Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

37 thoughts on “Calving Season – A Cowboy’s Heart

  1. Can’t take my eyes off that painting – it stirs my heart and soul. Thank you!🌹
    Marta Harrison

  2. I do love that treasure of a painting of Dean showing his gentle and caring spirit. Precious are the lessons that come from growing
    up in that environment and having Joan and Dean as parents.
    Our granddaughter Jess has a job from midnight until 6 AM at Center Ranch watching and helping birth baby horses. I get to hear some of the details. Loving on the babies makes the hours bearable she says. Only 2 to go.

    I love you all!

    • Dear Cathy,
      I agree that this painting conveys the essence of Daddys’ gentle and caring spirit. Does that just somehow shine through? Oh, dear Jess! What a wonderful experience for her! Simply incredible.
      I love you!

  3. Dawn Dearest, What a wonderful post! Since we both grew up on ranches, I share your memories–from calving, branding, to licking he salt blocks when no one was watching! Thank you for honoring that way of life that did much to shape both of us. My dad was a championship roper, and I, too, have a wonderful photo of him (roping a calf on his horse Sleepy, which was painted in oil. OXOX Jann

    • Dear Jann,
      Here’s to our shared memories of calving, branding, and yes, licking salt blocks! I think I actually did that WHILE people were watching! I want to see the photo of your dad the next time we’re at your home. XOXO Dawn

  4. Great post. We occasionally had newborns in the kitchen on our Kentucky farm, usually lambs or goats. I really got hit with the reality of foster-mothering in my 25 years rehabbing wildlife — baby squirrels, possums, woodchucks, porcupines, bats all needing 2 AM feedings. And orphaned birds from hawks to hummingbirds fed every half hour sunup to sundown.

    • Helen,
      I loved reading of your 25 years of foster-mothering wildlife and all of the animals you tended. Porcupines? WOW. That takes a very special foster mother toehold them at 2 AM. Hawks and baby hummingbirds every half hour… this is amazing Helen. Brings all kinds of images to my mind. Thank you.

  5. Such a loving tribute to your dad and all the hardworking folks who live and love the ranching life. Thank you, dear Dawn!

  6. Reblogged this on Dawn Wink: Dewdrops and commented:

    It’s calving season on the ranch again—eternal rhythm of life.

  7. This came at a good time. My boyfriend spends to much time out there on the ranch and I was upset because sometimes I think he likes the cows more than me! lol… but now I know better. He is where he needs to be! Thank you, Dawn.

  8. Darling and beautiful–thanks!

  9. Lovely sharing of your experience…and many others experience. Never been around calving season, but did spend an evening in a U of Maryland sheep barn helping my date deliver a couple of lambs.

    Can imagine the impact of calving and taking care to keep them warm. Thanks for sharing your experience…and the darling photo of you. Kay


    • Kay, I love the thought of you in that sheep barn helping your date deliver lambs. Now, there is a date! Thanks so much for taking the time to write and connect. That photo – Mom had made a postcard out of the photo and sent it to dear friends 40 years ago. Her friend just sent me. I love it, too. Such memories of our Cascabel years. Love to you, Dawn

  10. Dear Dawn, Though the ether waves and youtube, I know you have sophistication and class yet being raised on a ranch, you are not a delicate flower! You’ve lived the rustic life and felt the sorrow of cows and calves not surviving the birthing process. Your dad is like the heroes in western novels, the gentle giant. You’ve had a wonderful upbringing and I know you are thankful for it……How did that go? Ah, Living Altars. Love and respect, Dan

    PS Look at that, Dad has an iPad!!!

    • Dan, definitely not a delicate flower! That made me smile. Thank you. Yes, I’ve been incredibly blessed with my parents and my childhood – this is never far from my mind. As with all things, I think, I become more grateful with each year. Thank you, thank you for taking the time to connect. Hugs from New Mexico! Dawn

  11. How beautiful is this tribute to your dad! The painting of Dad/calf is such a treasure. Oh and the picture of you is absolutely precious!
    You are awesome. I continue to love and miss all of you!


  12. OMG Beautiful! Brought a tear to my eye. Thank You


    Sent from my iPad


  13. Beautiful tribute to your dad and ranch life, Dawn! Love those photos and painting.

    • Thanks so much, Katherine! It’s a real privilege for me to share ranch life, the beauty of this art, and my amazing dad with you. Thanks so much for taking the time to connect.

  14. Oh my dear Winkie, Reading that and seeing the photo of your dad and the calf, and hearing the stories of calves in your kitchen from your mom, I am so impressed….with all three of you!! That precious picture of you at Cascabel brings back so many fond memories for me as well….and the darling little girl you were back when I was young….and now the wonderful, amazing woman you have become!

    Love you, Nancy “Yates”

    • Dear Nancy, oh, are you ever in my thoughts and heart! Thank you so much for taking the time to write. This is the time that you and Mom saw Daddy riding up with tiny. baby Jean in front of him in the saddle – with her little sun bonnet that he had tied under her chin.
      Love and love you.
      Please come to Santa Fe for some time together.
      Love you,

  15. Friend, moved to tears to see and read this. Sure do love you and miss you,

    Sent from my little device to yours


  16. What a great painting and gift! I can smell the kitchen with the new baby calf or lamb wrapped in a gunny sack in front of the heater!

    • Charlotte, isn’t that painting just gorgeous? How I love that you know the smell of a newborn calf or lamb in front of the heater. Almost as much as I love that the new baby princess is named Charlotte.

  17. What a beautiful demonstration of love!! Your father is a good example of compassion and love!! Those animals were so blessed to grown and born there! Love the picture of you with your cute dogs! They look happy and attached to you!!!

    • Querida Edith, thank you so much for taking the time to write! I am still over the moon at las fotos tus gemelos tan divinos – Matthew and Ethan! Que hermosura! This photo is my dad at his core – such a blessing to receive the photo and the painting. Sheer beauty and gratitude. Love that photo, too. A gift from one of my mom’s dear friends.
      Please hug those babies for me – and keep sending photos!

  18. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this yearly event. Something I’ve never known but now can experience vicariously through you and your family.

    Meredith Machen

    • Dear Meredith, so grateful to share this rhythm of the year with you! Thank you ever so much for the beautiful photo book of South Dakota that you gave to me through Colleen. A treasure! Deep gratitude.

  19. Sherry, look at the magic you and Adam created! I still can’t look at your photo or the painting without tears – both convey worlds of emotions, experiences, and love. Thank you and thank you. P.S. One of my mom’s dear friends just sent me that photo. She’d had for the last 30 years! xo

  20. Your words are equally beautiful in revealing the life, the heart of the rancher, the cowboy and how each new calf is heritage reborn. P.S. I love the photo of you in your pigtails!

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