I’ve known for a while now… this would be a difficult posting for me to accomplish. Grief is heavy. None of us ever feel up to facing it. I can’t think of anyone ever enjoying all the crying and hurting inside. But there’s no getting around it – if you want to reach that horizon and being able to move on enough in ways that keep you from folding for good.
And so you just – dive in and get it over with.
Found a particular little Heifer alongside a Cow-Calf Pair I came across during one of my hunts – back in 2012. I remember the very first moment I imagined all the possibilities! I had cows on my mind. But a Heifer with a Cow came as a surprise!
Yes – Two Brood Cows were coming. But so was this little Heifer! And I was determined to spend days walking her around the open area of our place – letting her enjoy grazing all the clover and thick grasses.
PF No Foolin’ April. She’d been beside her Dam for almost 7 months by the time she arrived at our place. April’s Dam wasted no time introducing us to her wild disposition when she arrived here. Clearly – she was the Alpha of the bunch. But we had people with growing up experience telling us she was just flat crazy. Despite the view – I could not see giving up hope for being able to help April learn the good reasons for behaving differently.
I had gone through so much of investing myself into giving all I could to training some negatives out of her. Kicking was an issue that we knocked down to about 10 percent.
Slamming her head and neck into me became her way of saying she loved me – when I’d stand beside her. She learned to do it gently. Still – she kept the ace in her pocket – and used it when she was pissed – or – not getting her way. But – “Mama always wins!” I’d take something from her – be it cookies – or – “going out to eat clover” – if she didn’t square up. Her response would be to swing in gently with her love.
That was the line drawn for compromise. It was a feeling no different than sleeping with one eye open. But it was fair enough.
I lost such a huge part of my girl when she dropped that first calf. And it was frightening. I had just spent an afternoon walking all around our place with her. She was taking the stroll very slowly and carefully. Carrying all that extra weight was something she just wasn’t used to. She was tired and ready to dump the load.
April got what she wanted. She dropped that load in the middle of that night. Come that very next morning – Dwayne and I walked into the barn discovering my girl had disappeared.
And the Wife of Satan had moved in. It was horrible. Dwayne tried going inside her stall to pick up manure. You’d think she would have appreciated it. Hell no. She tossed him up in the air and against the wall.
She had gone nuts – just like her Dam. We had to have help come in – just to get her out of the stall – so we could give the calf vaccines and ear tag.
When we let April and her calf out into the paddock with the others a few days later – Satan’s Wife decided to stick around. She became bullish. Cora was able to keep her in check for the most part. But anytime we stepped inside the paddock – she charged us. It didn’t even matter if everybody was grazing at the far corner.
We were so relieved when Weaning Time came.
We could not be sure if the meanness was embedded during the months she spent with her Dam in the brood herd. There was a possibility that disposition came through the bloodline. You really never know until you have a few lines come into the world and spend enough time in your sight.
And it’s no reflection on the previous owners. Behavior in animals comes from genetics and instincts. There’s nothing wrong with allowing a herd of cows to exist in brood fashion – especially if you never plan on competing in shows and you’re only raising for selling the meat. Or – if you just don’t wish to have so much hands-on interface for whatever reason.
By this year April had been with us long enough with extensive time in training to know what was expected of her behavior around us. I have no problem with a cow being protective of her calf. But not at the expense of tossing my husband around in the stall – especially when he’s only trying to do you a favor of making sure you lay down on a clean bed.
Decisions were made and signed in concrete – as far as I was concerned. Before we’d even pulled the calf for weaning – I’d told Dwayne, “If she pulls this crap next time – she gets the calf long enough for the calf to gain the colostrum. I’m pulling the calf and I’ll bottle feed. If we can ever get a Heifer out of her from Artist – she’s gone.”
This year – there was absolutely no hesitation in getting the message across. The Wife of Satan returned. She arrived with nastiness in 3-fold. And that was just inside the stall.
God speaks to me through my gut feeling. And everything inside me said it would be even worse with 3 babies out in the pasture around her. Did I want to chance that? Of course not. But I didn’t even have to make that decision.
God made that decision for us. He decided it was time to get this over with. April calved a Heifer. Tiniest little thing we’ve seen in our Dexter Journey – so far!
Matthew 5:37 has always been one of my favorite scriptures for strength. “Let your Yes be Yes, No be No…” Being wishy-washy and a yo-yo can be THE biggest waste of time. And it burns all those around you.
All the brick walls we’ve had to chew through since moving here is killing us. The more we end up having to meet the challenges by ourselves, in this community – the easier it becomes to make cut-and-dry decisions. Banding every bull calf that falls on this property eases some of the weight from the tines of that fork in the Devil’s Hand – for now.
There’s been a LOT of screaming – Lots of cussing (which I refrain from around kids and out in public). Lots of looking up and yelling. I’ve come to the conclusion that God must be pretty damned busy these days. Makes perfect sense to me – considering all the crap that’s going on in this country – alone. But things seem to happen when I reach the point of standing in a barn – looking up – and just – screaming out a plea.
Cracks me up how so many are so busy judging me – concluding that I’m on my way to Hell. I have to laugh! Does it dawn on anyone – the fact that God is watching me, too? He knows everything I say and do before they even see or hear it! He sees everything that’s going on around me. I don’t have to hide from Him. He doesn’t expect me to be Man’s version of Perfection – for the benefit of Man nor Himself. He sees everything that’s not going on around me – as well. He knows what’s behind my verbal frustrations. But most important – He DOES hear my prayers.
And He answers. I don’t care what anybody around here thinks. That’s their problem. Not mine. This planet is not my circus. They are not my monkeys. What DOES matter is the fact that God knows me better than anybody on this planet. Pretty much all the time – God’s all that Dwayne and I have had in our pockets.
As soon as I knew we had a Heifer on the ground – it was easy for me to recognize God speaking to me. I’ve always followed through. He blessed me with the gift of Discernment. And I will even rebel against my own husband to abide by God’s Will. Before Dwayne came home from work that day – the appointment for taking April to butcher was on the calendar. But we had to wait until the following Thursday.
We had 9 days to wait before Dwayne could take April to Decatur. That’s enough time for anyone to go through a lot of yo-yo emotions and decision making. Normally – I would be the worst. But I asked God to give me whatever I needed to make it to the 9th day.
I knew that I would have to let myself cry – at some point. April was my first Heifer. She was My Girl. Ask her if she wanted to go out for clover – she’d lift her head up over the stall door and turn her head for me to latch the lead rope to her control halter. She’d stand and wait for doors to open and close – waiting so casually for commands. Loved being brushed. She’d even move around to show me where she wanted me to brush her. She had such a pleasing conformation. But her good behavior would only set in for about 5 months out of a year.
I had to put my heart to the side. I had to consider the safety of all the others in the herd.
I would not even look at her for 9 days. Her feed was slipped under the stall door in a rubber bowl. Made me think of somebody in jail. Since cleaning the stall was impossible – Dwayne stood on a step-stool and shot flakes of hay through space above the wall dividing the 2 stalls and above the stall door. We ended up tying the cattle panel cut for a creeper feeder to the top of the stall gate. Made it possible for me to toss flakes of hay in there when Dwayne was at work. That spunky little Heifer took care of spreading the hay for us.
I stayed blind and stone cold for 9 days. I kept myself busy. I poured myself into all the others. And the path felt clear and smooth. I knew I wasn’t walking alone.
By that 9th morning – Rob showed up around 5:30am to help Dwayne get April separated from Molly and into the trailer. I just don’t know what we’d do without Rob’s help. He is our Calvary. We call him in when there’s absolutely no way we can handle something by ourselves.
Getting April into the trailer was a lot easier than anticipated. By the time Dwayne made it to Decatur and opened the trailer door – April walked out of the trailer calmer than any of the other animals have when carried to butcher. It was as if she’d conceded to accepting the fact that she’d crossed our line and created the uncertainty that was in front of her.
I do not regret culling her. But that will never mean that my heart will ever stop paying the price for having to go that far.