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Memories on the Hoof
C J Mouser
Two years ago,
almost to this date, Joe Nickerson from the dairy
down the road presented me with a
scrawny, scoury, little Holstein bull calf. It was
only a couple of days old, small enough that Joe
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
it, before I made any financial investments into cow raising. I looked into the big brown eyes of
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.
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
might come around."
This was just getting better and better. A gift. I
never for once doubted that he would make it. I
wouldn't allow him not to make it. Simple as that.
My husband 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 when he's big
enough, we'll butcher him and eat him." I said
factly. It was easy to say that, when I knew that the event wouldn't happen for a year or more down
He looked at me with that 'I know you better
than that' way he has, and said....
"Uh huh. Okay."
Yesterday afternoon Ed Perry, the butcher, came to
collect this thousand pound beast that we had long
ago, somewhat affectionately, named Rocky, to take
him to be prepared for the table. He loaded up
smoothly with no incident, and I watched Mr. Perry
drive away with Rocky standing forlornly in the
he pulled behind his truck. Truth be told, it was
not an easy thing to do, and Fred was almost right,
knew we were doing the right thing. I saw Rocky
take one last gander at the home where he'd grown
and he was gone. I leaned against the gate trying
not to think of anything in particular, and that's
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.
From the minute we put him on the bottle, 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
grow. He was a cute little thing. Cute as he was,
he did have his issues. 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
The disgusting way he had of running his tongue up
into his nose. I don't know what kind of weird cow
logic there is behind this behavior. He taught me
that my right index finger, that I had always used
mundane, routine, unimportant activities, was in
reality a bovine pacifier. Imagine that. The kids
biggest kick out of how he would stand there
contentedly sucking on my right index finger,
something to come out of it eventually I suspect.
Naturally all the blood would rush to the end of my
when I finally got it loose.
"Mama, you got a cow hickey!"
I remembered 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 Rocky. Fred had been
telling me that if we kept him around for any
of time we needed to have it done, or he would be
pushing down fences all over the property before it
"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
Rocky got too big and too ornery.
Dr. Shiver put Fred to work, helping to get Rocky
to the ground and I was instructed to hold him
was nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of
rockers, not having much experience with bulls,
young ones, 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
his neck?" He and Fred exchanged a chuckle. Shut
There were some nice memories from back when he was
a calf; I can still smell his sweet breath, kind of
like a mixture of freshly mowed grass and ice cream. But, he grew and grew and his misdeeds grew
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
for calling him on these transgressions. When you
went out in 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 would come up
and rub against you affectionately or chase you
down and stomp you to pieces. The last straw was
broken when he ravaged a sow's 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,
of him now."
It was time. Time to put up or 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
This steer was not meant to be a pet. He has gone
to fulfill his destiny, and I have reconciled
that fact, and I have to admit that I can breathe
easier knowing that he won't be jumping any more
or trampling anymore prospective show pigs, and I
am actually kind of looking forward to sampling the
meat. I can envision 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 qualms
about doing this.
As long as I don't focus on my right index finger
when I do it.
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