Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Longest Walk

It began in March.
I remember being very young and spending that particular day with my mother - which, of course - I always did. Those days were nothing extraordinary, but special nonetheless. Our time together was short. 
Anyhow, on this particular day, I caught the eye of a man. 

Not any man, but rather the one who owned the place; this place that I call home. 
He watched me briefly, then went on about his business of checking mineral tubs. 

Shortly after, that a very similar scenario played out, except the man had his kids with him.  "That's her, 510, she has her back to us," he told the children riding in the back bed of the Kawasaki Mule. 
The kids talked. I couldn't understand them over the rumble of the motor. They only stayed by mother and I for a few minutes. 
When they drove away, the young boy in the back studied me. 
Watched me. 
Looked straight into my eyes. I returned the gesture. 
I knew then: My life was about to change. 

Months later I was weaned; taken from my mother. 
Clueless animal rights folks think this is torture. 
Apparently they thoroughly enjoy still living in their parents' basement and playing Tetris on the internet.
That's not the life for me. Or anyone going somewhere in life. 
Mother handled it better than I did; she is maternal enough to know that life - even as a beef heifer - is about roots and wings
I went through the tub system and received my vaccinations and was poured so the insects wouldn't eat me alive. 
I was hard to corral. 
I carried on like a bandit. 
I bellowed against the metal of the system and acted like I was flat out being tortured. Dramatic? Maybe. 
But I wanted to prove my independence. 

Didn't work.
This is me an hour later. 

My life moved quickly after that. 
I was halter broken - but not after raising hell for a couple weeks. As a young heifer, that was my job. 
I was rinsed - extensively. For as clean as I stayed in that pen under a barn, they were sure concerned with rinsing me. A lot. It wasn't a problem until they interrupted snooze time. 
I was fed - precisely - to ensure nutrition. Never as much as I wanted, but I never mentioned it. Obviously. 

And I was talked to. 
Sometimes the young boy talked more to me than he did his family. Sometimes he cried around me when none knew where he was. Sometimes he just came in and sat behind me to get away from everyone else. Usually, I was the only one who knew his secrets.
And most of the time, he liked me more than he did his sister. Can't blame him. She can be a tic dramatic. 

It was during this time that I strangely became a safe place - or hideout - for the young boy. He stayed here long after his work is done, Angus Journals in hand. He talked to himself. He circled things. He folded corners of pages. He studied that Journal far more than any text book. In fact, between you and me, sometimes he hid the Journal in his backpack and told his mother he was coming here to do his science reading, only to never crack open the science book. Please don't repeat that; I enjoyed the company. 

Just as the young boy is changing - he's getting taller and thinner - I am changing, too. Hours behind those Angus Journals (hopefully) paid off as the boy made the decision to breed me to BAR Ext, a bull certain to not kill me. Of course, according to his EPDs. There was a lot of discussion between the boy and his Dad about that decision. In the end, his Dad let it be the choice of the boy who had done his homework. You know, it's interesting how some folks think that after my showing days are over, my purpose is over, too. In reality - with this one decision, it's just beginning. 

It's funny how excited I get when I hear the diesel engine growl and the aluminum trailer hit the holes in the lane as it pulls into the farm. My initial thought: Someone is taking a ride, and I hope it's me. This time, it was. The boy loaded me up and took me all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the National Junior Angus Show. I've never seen so many kids all jacked up on powered donuts and fun dip in my life. Water balloon fights, cooking contests, public speaking showdowns and matching t-shirts. About half way through the week I wasn't sure if I was at a cattle show for some sort of halfway house for wild adolescents addicted to Final Bloom. It was a good week, all the way around. Second in class. Can you believe it? I'm tired and ready for home. 

Well, today was interesting. I saw those kids fling showsticks at one another like they were participants of season 25 of Survivor. I mean....both great shots, both had the passion in their shouts and energy in their arms, but there was about three minutes when I didn't know if either would survive. The boy locked his sister in the stock trailer for calling him a sissie. I guess that'll teach her. Their mother came and demanded he let her out before she died in there. He walked back to the trailer with great hesitation. 

They both went on to survive the ordeal. And traveled to the county fair the next week.
What a week for all of us. The kids were extremely excited, the parents were somewhat excited, I was was most excited when it was over. It was a hot week for a gal used to a fan on her back. 
There were so many spectators taking it all in, commenting on each of us as we walked around. Some even made spectacles of themselves and commented on the kids. Don't get me started.  Anyhow, I did well. Like - purple banner over my stall card - well. Can you believe it?

After that it got cooler outside of the barn and the days got shorter. We took fewer walks with a show stick but increased our walks to and from the wash racks, for whatever reason. My days became mundane during that period. I always looked forward to that next trailer ride. 

I had an interesting experience with the young boy. I rode in the stock trailer for several hours before unloading some place quite bigger than the county fair. Much of the week was similar, though. Eating, being rinsed, the boy watching me, being tied outside at night, his sister running around socializing. Two major differences I noticed: There were hundreds of head just like me. Blowers were constantly running, funs were buzzing around the clock, the wash racks were always full - can you believe that? I wasn't just the lone animal in the barn anymore. And, can you believe this, when the boy showed me I walked on green wood shavings. Green! I felt fancy. 

Except, when we got home, 
I realized how much my life 
was about to change. 

Now, it's my turn. 
I speak - or, something - with confidence when I say these kids have done everything they could to make me successful. The miles hauled across the U.S., the dedication and time, the investment of money, feed and space, the knock-down-drag-outs in the barnyard...all of that was for me. I didn't win a national show, but I don't think that was the goal at hand. The goal at hand is still in the making. 

Now it's my turn. 
As the boy leads me down the gravel path to the pasture, his sister tails me - though she does not touch me once. She need not. I walk willingly, as taught, as trained, as I know best. Where he leads me I will go; I am amongst friends. 

This, the longest walk, leads from the barn to the pasture, where I'll truly live out my purpose: producing a calf every year for the boy. Building his herd. Fueling his passion. Providing the next generation of breeding stock for the producer. Up until now, I've taught the boy animal husbandry, a bit about nutrition, the value of getting the work done before the day gets unbearably hot and why it's important to not kill your sister: She's a good co-worker. Now, after the longest walk, I'll teach him about raising safe, affordable beef in the U.S. 

Now it's my turn. 
And my job as a show heifer was never to get the young boy to the backdrop; this - all of this - was never about the backdrop. This was about becoming a cow that produced a live calf. This was about producing beef cattle that perform and reproduce - without a jack and chains.  This was never about tail adhesive, paint or crippled competitors. This is about beef. My life is about the offspring yet to come, of which the young - turned adult - boy will one day say to his daughter as he points, 

"Her grand dam was 
the one that started it all."

For a mother's perspective, 
check out It's A Wonderful Life.  

1 comment:

  1. Great Story. I use to talk to my heifers for hours. They knew lots of secrets! This post made me reminisce about picking out a perfect bull for my heifer and coming home from the fair and taking my her out to pasture. Those moments I do remember and those are the ones that count!