Endings are often sad, we had one yesterday.
He was a proud stocky three-year-old Angus
steer, the last of our small herd, filled out and
contented on augmented buckets of grain to
fatten him up over the last few months and
lessen his lonely estrangement from his
departed or sold off family herd.
All alone in the pasture he would often bellow
mournfully, which he would also do twice a
day to remind us he wanted his grain.
When the box truck pulled in, he trotted to the gate,
curious I suspect. The two men in not so white overalls
stepped down and approached their side of the fence.
One man held something at his side. The steer raised
his head and ears, stepped back a little, perhaps he
sensed danger, the man raised his rifle from ten feet
away and a shot rang out.
Dead in a heartbeat, the big steer collapsed in the dust.
Deceased before he hit the ground. Yet in his throws of
death his legs thrashed violently in sad reflex. The
accomplice killer opened the gate and cut the beefs
throat to bleed him out and the thrashing soon ceased.
This was mobile butchery, done on the spot, the skilled
butchers knew their grisly tasks and bent to their work.
In about 30 minutes the steer, (we stopped naming our
cattle, all but the mothers, when my grandsons grew old
enough to understand that these animals were meat on
the hoof, not pets and names made the partings harder).
Useful Farm Boy emotional armor I suppose.
In half an hour the two halves of our animal were bleed
out, gutted, skinned, washed, dismembered tagged with
a number and hung up on hooks in the truck, alongside
eight other steers of the day, all on the way to the shop
for further cutting up and packaging. Then placed into
flash freezers. Ready for our family to bring home or to
sell to friends.
Raised without injections or hormones this is healthy
beef, tasty too, but which I reframed from eating some
years ago. Having watched our cattle born and growing,
I became too soft hearted to eat them. Preferring to buy
nameless, faceless meat with no personal history, from
grocery stores in neat little clear plastic wrappings. To
at least avoid some of my old man hypocritical guilt.
So, the barn and pasture are now empty, no more 4-H
animals for the almost grown boys to raise and show,
out of the side gig of beef and pig business. No more
cute baby swine or bovines, no more dung upon my boots.
It was yet another chapter in our book of family life, another
ending. As all things must.