Life and Death #3 – Emma

April 19, 2010

Every month Emma makes her way to the south pasture to stand at the fence, bellowing. Her mother, Gladys, used to do the same thing because she knew there was a bull in the pasture across the road. The bull was named “Junior,” and Gladys would call to him for hours, telling him she was interested and ready for a little roll in the hay. Junior, who was always very willing, would come to the fence on his side of the road and the two would stand there, alternately mooing then staring intently at one another, waiting.

Once, after my father died, my mother was sitting on the porch watching this ardent exchange. “Poor buggers,” she muttered, “I know just how you feel.” Even though she swore she would never have another man, it was hard for her to be alone.

Gladys was my first, beloved cow. Since she died, I think Emma has felt lonely. Some would say Emma doesn’t have to deal with loneliness…she’s only responding to some animal drive. But I know that’s not true. Cows stick together. They’re interested in one another. They watch one another’s back. They start talking to their newborns immediately so the youngun’ will know their voice. And they will aggressively defend that young one from anyone. I know, because I went flying through the air once, courtesy of one of those great bovine heads powered by the 2000 lbs. of force behind it in an effort to take control of the calf we had just separated from her.

Now Junior is gone…and so is the farmer who owned him. When the farmer was alive, we sometimes opened the pasture gates and led Gladys over to spend a little time with Junior. Once, they didn’t even get all the way across the road! Cow and bull met in the middle of 88th Avenue and without a moment’s hesitation, Junior mounted Gladys and proceeded with his business. I started to pray that no car came along, but it was all over in less than three minutes. Talk about wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am!

Now, I’m watching Emma and wondering if I should breed her. My family thinks I should sell the cows and reduce the work load on my shoulders. I keep thinking I’d like to breed them and add new life to the farm.  If I don’t do something soon, in another year or two, Emma will be too old to have a calf. Where does one find a good bull these days? ♦