Posted 09-13-2003 at 07:41:01
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Two years ago almost to the date, Joe Nickerson from the dairy down the road gifted me with a scrawny, scoury, little bull calf. It was only a couple of days old, small enough that Joe could carry him easily in his arms.
"You want this thing?"
I had been pestering him to sell me a calf, I can only speculate that he was going to give me a trial run before I made any investments in cow raising. I looked into the big brown eyes of the sickly calf, noted the knobby knees, and the sweet roundness of his little nose, and my maternal instincts kicked into overdrive.
"Well, suuuure I do." I'm quite certain I had an idiotic grin on my face because my cheeks hurt. "How much do you want for him?"
"Nuthin'. You want him, you can have him. I don't expect him to make it, but maybe with some effort he might come around."
This was just getting better and better. A gift. I never for once doubted that he would make it. I just wouldn't allow him not to make it. Simple as that.
Fred took one look at him when he got home that afternoon and laughed.
"What are you going to do with that?"
"I'm going to raise him and then we'll butcher him and eat him." I said matter of factly. It was easy to say when I knew that the event wouldn't happen for a year or more down the road. He looked at me with that way he has and said....
"Uh huh. Okay."
Sure enough, he thrived. Within a week the scours were gone and he had officially adopted anyone who carried his bottle, as his mama. I could almost stand there and watch him grow. He was a cute little thing. He did have his issues, though, such as his penchant for rewarding you with a thin stream of yucky poop down your leg after feeding if you didn't move fast enough. His habit for butting when his horns started to grow in. He taught me that my right index finger that I had always used for mundane, routine, unimportant activities, was in reality a bovine pacifier. Imagine that. I can still feel that.
Yesterday afternoon Ed Perry came to collect this beast that we had somewhat affectionately named Rocky, to take him to be butchered. He loaded up smoothly with no incident and I watched Mr Perry drive away. I saw Rocky take one last look from the trailer at the home where he'd grown up, and he was gone. That's when the memories started flooding back. Dang it.
If I said I didn't get a little bit emotional I would be a liar of the worst sort. Not weepy or anything quite like that. More like nostalgic. After all, he'd been around for almost two years. Granted in the space of those two years he put us through just a wee bit of he11 with his misbehavior. He jumped fences, he trampled other animals when he got excited, he broke into the feed containers, and there towards the end, when you went into the pasture with him, it depended on which way the wind was blowing, and which side of his rump his tail was hanging on, whether he was going to come up and rub against you with true affection, or chase you down and stomp you to death. That was my boy.
I rememebered a year or so ago when Dr Gary Shiver came out to see to an injured boar, and I asked him what it would take to castrate this calf. Fred had been telling me that if we kept him around for any length of time we needed to have it done or he would be pushing down fences all over the property before it was over.
"Nothing but a sharp blade and a couple of extra hands to hold him down." The good doctor replied.
So, Fred and I decided to have him do it before he got to big and too ornery.
"Now here's what I need you to do." Dr Shiver said. "Fred you need to help me get him on the ground, Cindi, once we get him there you get on his neck and hold him."
I was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers, so the minute Rocky hit the ground on his side I tackled him, reminiscent of the crocodile hunter tackling a twelve foot alligator. I threw myself full body onto his neck and he rolled one eye up at me in protest.
"Like this?!" I asked the doctor.
"Well I'm not sure you need to do all that, he's only a few hundred pounds. Maybe just put your knee on his neck?" He and Fred exchanged a chuckle. Shut up.
Rocky grew and grew and his misdeeds grew right along with him. He was a royal pain in the neck. In the space of two days he destroyed the fence on the hen yard, a fence on the pig pasture, shorted out the electric fence and threatened me with bodily harm for calling him on these trangressions. The last straw was broken when he ravaged a sows nest, ran her away from her babies and stepped on a newborn piglet. Fred was fit to be tied.
"He just stepped on a hundred dollar bill! I don't care what you need to do or how you need to do it, get rid of him now."
It was time. Time to put up of shut up. I swallowed around the lump in my throat and made the call, and now he's gone. I'll admit it. I wouldn't have cared if that stupid animal lived here until he died of old age. I would have kept him around happily just as a lawnmower, but nature has a way of keeping us grounded. This steer was not meant to be a pet. He has gone to fulfill his destiny and I have reconciled myself to that fact and I have to admit that I can breathe easier knowing that he won't be jumping any more fences or trampling anymore baby pigs, and I am actually kind of looking forward to sampling the meat. I can envison cutting into a nice juicy steak and enjoying the reward of raising our own beef to feed the family and I don't expect having any problems doing this. As long as I don't look at my right index finger when I do it.