Dreaming of Sleep

Of all of the dreams I want to come true, my current one is that of sleep. When calves showed up in freezing temperatures my husband and I started cow checking at night more consistently.

Night checks that can take up to three hours if there are problems have left my husband and I sleep deprived more than normal this calving season. Sleep deprivation makes me wake up feeling dopey; hang-overish from a short night and craving more of that short-lived pleasure called sleep.

Lack of sleep makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do under well-rested circumstances, like drink decaf coffee. Exhaustion messes with you, not to mention makes a mess of you. I’ll shower less in order to sleep more. A hot shower has become the highlight of the week. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a body fragrance that masks my body odor really well when I haven’t showered enough. It’s a springy-scent that evokes memories of a newborn calf with a hint of cow colostrum and notes of green mud. It’s a totally organic experience I won’t soon forget and makes me recognize a cows’ body odor more than my own.

With each additional night that I’m shorted on zzz’s, my motor skills deteriorate. One night it took me a few minutes and some deteriorated words to realize that the reason I couldn’t get the gate to open was because I was opening it at the wrong end. Sometimes it takes me twice as long to check at night because I can’t remember what cows I just spotlighted or the three numbers of cows that I saw had calved.

Sleep deprivation also makes me lazy. I’ll deliberately fix soup or crockpot suppers until my family protests. To avoid having to pre-treat and wash four tons of heavily soiled laundry I’m willing to wear the same sweatshirt and jeans for several days. There’s enough mud and manure on our clothes to backfill Homestake Gold Mine’s open cut.

I progressively cut more corners to improve my night-checking PR (personal record) time when I get rummy-headed. I’ll go from piling my clothes next to the bed that I can put on in the dark, in my sleep, to just pulling my coveralls over my sleepwear and leaving my overshoes in my coveralls like a fireman to save seven seconds.

In severe cases, it’s not beneath me to use bribery. Promising an afternoon nap temporarily stops my head from whining and complaining about being tired. Playing head games with my mind keeps me motivated during daylight hours until my work gets done, but my mind has a mind of its own when I’m overly tired and try to force sleep.

As a light fall-asleeper, if I’m not plagued with reminders, to-do’s, and don’t forgets, then it’s the sound of the heater kicking on, my husband’s snoring or being bounced out to the edge of the bed in the wake of him shifting and rolling over in his sleep. When do I finally start to doze off, all I see is a continuous reel of getting cows in the barn, muck everywhere, and water balloon-like sacks or feet protruding out of cows’ backsides.

To comprehend why I voluntarily give up sleep for cows, I’ll have to get back to you with my answers. I need some time to sleep on it first.

column originally published the week of March 14-20, 2010

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