At 5:01 p.m. on June 8th 2017, another prairie boy was added to the mix on the Cheyenne River Bison Ranch. Barrett Elton Jones came into this world weighing a hearty 9 lbs. 15 oz. and measuring 20.5 inches in length. His mother was flawless throughout her second time enduring the delivery process. Jilian proved to be poised and in control, which is a little different from the ambiance of the ranch in the days preceding Barrett’s arrival.
During the days leading up to Barrett’s birth, a series of events occurred that tested the old theory that it takes a village to raise a child. Our little family had a bout with the flu bug in which Grandma and Grandpa proudly took their turn caring for the ill while Jilian or I took our turns recovering. With Jilian being so close to her due date, the doctors ordered us to make the 40-mile trip to the hospital to be there well prior to giving birth.
The day of Barrett’s birth, the ranch was scheduled to give a 50-person tour. I woke up that morning with a weird feeling that something was out of place. Dan had been out of town, and everyone else had been sick. I knew the Bison had plenty of drinking holes in the pasture they were in, but I would normally not go this long without checking on their whereabouts. I got up early with Jilian the day of the tour as she was having consistent contractions that were six minutes apart. Nothing too serious yet, but I knew she was going to be having a baby within the next 24 hours. Once Jilian convinced me she was, "fine for now," I took off on a four-wheeler to confirm the location of the herd prior to the charter bus of 50 guests showing up.
My speculation from earlier in the morning was confirmed when I came across an open gate leading to the Cheyenne River. Off in the distance I could see our herd of 400 plus bison crossing the river heading for the Pine Ridge Reservation.
I called the main house to let everyone know what was going on. Jilian at this time informed me her contractions were becoming more frequent and increasing in intensity. I felt a sense of urgency now, but I did not feel panicked as, Jill was there to care for Lincoln and I could see Melissa (WIB sales supervisor) and Lucas (shipping supervisor and brother-in-law) coming down the gravel road that comes from Rapid City. They had volunteered to help that day, not knowing who might be where. The dust trail that followed them reminded me just what caliber of people come from our village.
Dan had showed up on another four-wheeler at this time. As we took off to begin the tedious process of maneuvering the herd the two miles back into the pasture they had escaped from, I received a message from Jilian saying she had spoken with the doctor and that he told her to gather her things and come into the hospital as she was in the late stages of pre-labor.
I know Dan could have probably got the herd back on his own, as he’s done it a hundred times, but it probably wouldn’t have been until late in the day. The goal was to get the herd back in before the tour group had arrived in the pasture to view them.
We made our way down to the river where the herd was grazing on the opposing side. I crossed and swung around behind them while Dan waited on the north side where he positioned himself to lead them. We got them pushed across and lined out back toward home. A lead cow walked as if she knew exactly where she needed to be going and for that I am thankful.
The lead cow only had about a ¼ of a mile to go when Jilian called and said we had to go to the hospital right now. I swung around to tell Dan and he was giving me a knowing “thumbs up” before I got to him. “Send someone back to help just in case I need it” and “good luck!” is all he said. I raced back to the main house to get Jilian and caught Lucas on my way. I gave him rough directions on how and where to find Dan and he sped off without any questions to assist.
I called the house on my way back and found out that the village was in the process of improvising. The tour group had arrived as scheduled. Jill had filled in as tour guide, with son Lincoln as her wingman. Lucas and Melissa replaced Jill by spearheading the lunch set-up. Next I came up on Jilian, who was stopped in a random spot in the middle of the driveway. As I pulled up next to her I could see she was forced to stop while she battled through a contraction. Once it had surpassed, she moved over to the passenger seat while I took the wheel and headed for the hospital.
Although Jilian and I (and the rest) didn’t need the added chaos, we got through it with the help of our capable and resilient village.
We arrived at the hospital a little after 11 a.m. and 6 hours later I became a proud father for the second time. I was proud of Jilian too. I was proud of my new son Barrett, and proud of my older son Lincoln for being so patient and understanding for a 3-year old. Holding my boys in my arms is indeed the best gift ever! Wishing all of you fathers a Happy Father’s Day!