Life on the Parcel - Tippy
Spring had come early the year we - once again - tried our hands at raising something farmish on our small parcel of land in the country. The weather turned unseasonably warm early in February and everything started growing abnormally. The grass grew so fast that spring - you could go to bed smiling because it was mowed - only to awaken next day - to find it was 17 inches high again! Every day turned into a mowing day. There was so much mowing going on all the time that even our lawn mowers were beginning to complain, whine, and refuse to work.
On one of those Mowing Days, I was visiting with a dear friend who was in the dairy business. It was just women chit chat - she was telling me how many bull calves had been born and the problems associated with raising cows when I mentioned that it would be nice to have a cow here to keep the place mowed down and then to butcher when it was grown. (At the time, I had loaned her a couch and she was trying to figure out how to give it back when she still needed it.) And so - being the good friends we were - she just said: "Trade ya a calf for your couch!" And I said: "Done deal!"
I would like to be able to plead insanity as my excuse for inviting this fiasco into my life, but that would be a preposterous lie. The Real Truth is; it was Greed - pure, unadulterated, blind to reality Greed. I was momentarily over come with visions of a freezer crammed full of beef steaks, and roasts! And, in my mind's eye - I saw not only steaks - (sizzling on a barbecue) - but also a Self Propelled Lawn Mower!
When I was growing up, my folks always had a cow in the pasture, behind the house. And that cow kept the grass down! Well, our two acre parcel needed something to keep the knee-high grass down so raising a calf seemed like a very intelligent thing to do. Bill had been literally mowing his brains out trying to keep up. (Which accounts for His mental deficiency.) So, he too, was all for getting a grass eating calf! And he said: "Just think about All That Meat! Steaks! Roasts! Hamburger! We could hardly contain our excitement!!!"
It did not take long to realize that our excitement was not the only thing we would not be able to contain. The longest stretch of time we were able to keep that calf contained was less than two days. The rest of time, he was tied to a stake, fighting desperately for freedom or running free on the property committing nefarious deeds and terrorizing us. As that calf grew, and Grew and GREW, we began to get the eerie feeling that we just might have bitten off more than we could chew.
We learned a lot about raising a calf that Spring and most of it was not pleasant. We learned that baby cows do not grow as fast as grass. And, that baby calves do not eat grass! Baby calves need MILK! Thus, we purchased a 50 lb. bag of Milk Replacer for the baby. This ghastly smelling powder is first, mixed with warm water, (to make and even more ghastly smelling liquid.) Then it is poured into a giant bottle, and topped with a giant nipple. To serve, you grasp the monstrous sized bottle firmly in both hands, stick it in the baby's face and the baby calf sucks it down in about ten seconds flat! That is if it all goes well! (which it doesn't most of the time!) Most of the time the baby will butt the bottle irrationally and cause you to drop it. Then there follows a little game of - who is going to pick it up - you or the baby. The baby cannot do this, but that will not stop him from trying! And so, one usually ends up with calf slobber all over them before the feeding is accomplished. Sometimes, baby wants that milk so bad he will just suck the whole darn nipple off the bottle! The milk will seep rapidly into the ground and you will have to wrestle the calf for ownership of the nipple. Then one gets to go make more ghastly smelling liquid and start all over!
This process is called Feeding the Baby. It is a tender, heart warming, and nurturing procedure that most small children love to do. It makes them feel parental. Since I had been blessed with one of these small children, named Melissa, I had a perfectly good substitute mother for the baby calf. Melissa was born to mother all creatures great and small! Nurturing anything that was a baby came natural to her. She was already mother to many, many chickens she had raised since they were eggs. She talked to her chickens and gave them little mother kisses on their little chicken beaks. She looked them right in the eye and communicated with them. She could even see them smile! And thus, we ran into a few problems raising Food-Type creatures on our property. (It is very hard for a Mother to eat her own children!) So, with this in mind, I christened the baby calf "Tip-Steak" and explained as succinctly as possible to Melissa that we were raising him to Eat! He was not a Pet! He was not to be Loved! He was Food!
I assure you she gave every indication of comprehending what I was telling her. However, as she gave him his first bottle, I believe, she may also have whispered many sweet-nothings to him and probably gave him many little kisses. She was with him, for quite awhile, nurturing and bonding.
When she returned to the house her little eyes were positively glowing, her small face was one big smile and she sighed to me: "oh mom....Tippy is so cute!" I looked her right in the eye, and raised my voice three octaves. "Tippy?" I screamed, "You can't call him Tippy! His name is Tip-Steak! We are going to EAT him honey!" She sweetly replied: "Oh.... I know THAT! But, NOW he is too Little.. Now he needs a LITTLE name."
Having witnessed her bonding abilities in the past, it did not take much of my imagination to visualize what had gone on as she gave him his first bottle. ("oh yes... yes, you are .. you are such a GOOD little baby... yes you are... kiss kiss... you want some more milk honey? Is the little baby still hungry? Mommy will get you some more... you are So Cute too... yes you are... and Now, You Are Family!.. etc. etc..") From then on, he was called Tippy. And he thought he was a member of the family! He thought that till the day he died. He was treated like a pet puppy dog.
And Tippy may very well have thought that he was one of our dogs. He acted like a dog! (A giant - jump up and lick your face - Dog!) He never accepted his proper role as a food source or lawn mower. He refused to accept his bovine heritage and lived in denial his entire life.
He was loose on the property the day he learned to run. There wasn't a thing we could do about it so we just stayed out of his path and watched. It was mesmerizing. It was unreal. (He did not run like a calf at all.) He ran very fast, very low and close to the ground. He ran like a feral cat escaping death. He ran as if some demonic force was riding him, screaming in his ear: "Run like the wind Tippy! Run like the wind!" We thought for sure he would run into a tree and kill himself but he didn't. The larger he grew the more eerie and terrifying it became when he decided to have a little run. Double eerie, if he was excited by secret thoughts that we had come to play with him.
For, if he was excited to see us - he would switch modes and also - bound up and down like a giant pepe la pue! It was a pretty scary sight to see him at a dead run - heading towards us - body stretched low to the ground - grinning from ear to ear - and bounding up and down - like a mad possessed creature! And we knew - if he reached us - he planned on putting his hooves up on our shoulders and giving us a giant, slobbery, calf kiss! By mid- summer we had learned many more things.
We learned to live in Fear. Fear, that he would get loose when we weren't looking and catch us unaware. Fear, that we would not be able to out run him once he spotted us. Fear that he would finally make it up the porch steps and enter the house. Fear that the day would come - when a 2X4 or a large hunk of pipe - planted between his eyes - would no longer stop him. Fear... That he was demon spawn and not really a calf at all!
He refused to stay in the fenced area out back and was constantly bulling his way through the fence so he could be in the front yard. It was not long before the fence was just a sick joke of tangles, and broken wire, attached to even sicker, deformed fence posts. So, we would drive metal fence posts deep in the ground attach a rope to him and stake him out back. (One more exercise in futility.) He would just run wildly about, bellering loudly and basically acting like he'd just consumed a bale of cannabis. He would stretch, pull and yank until the stake came out or the rope broke. He did not want to be out back! He wanted to be in the front yard. He liked to be where family things were happening. And the front yard was where Melissa played with the dogs and her chickens. It was where the driveway was. It was where he wanted to be if at all possible. And, he was just large enough and strong enough and bull-headed enough to make it possible most of the time.
The day finally came though - when our fear and frustration - pushed us over the edge - and we became...Abusers! Pure, unadulterated, Animal Abusers!!
By this time, Tippy had successfully girdled two apple trees, eaten my rose bushes, helped Bill break his big toe, and caused Bill to develop a raging case of 'Potty Mouth'. He had trapped Melissa in the hay loft for more than an hour, while he bellered insanely at her from below, butting his head madly against the ladder, and giving her the old 'evil-eye'. He had explored our new canvas tent one afternoon, christened it cow-style, ripped out every window screen and then proceeded to exit via a previously, non-existent door!
So, by the time we became abusive - he deserved it! He deserved to die an unspeakable death but, he was not quite ready for processing and we felt we shouldn't 'waste him' before his time.
We first learned of his penchant for bonkings and thonkings, one sunny, summer day. Melissa was out in the yard, swinging with her chickens, chatting and singing them merry, little tunes. She remembers hearing a eerie, low - make your hair stand on edge - sound. It seemed to be coming from very near Tippy's stake out area. It seemed that way - because it was Tippy! He was making the - 'I am going to Free Myself Now' - noises. AND...Under his breath, he was calling: "Mooolissa....Moolissa....I'm moo coming.... I'll be there moo soon!" And then he shifted into his - no holds barred - 'escape mode'.
Melissa remembers being terrified and immobilized at the same time. She was locked in time - thinking - He is gonna get loose AND COME GET ME!! All she could do was sit there mesmerized and watch him perform his frenzied Dance For Freedom.
He paced himself off until he was at the end of his rope. He eyed the ground and pawed a little X in the grass. Then he crouched low, shifted into high gear, and ran full tilt back toward the stake, bounding and grinning. He raced past the stake and kept going until he reached the end of his tether - adeptly making sure one of his boundings came at that precise moment. Thoing!!! (the fence stake gave a little.) He then spun around in mid air and repeated the performance, heading back the way he came. At point X another 'Thoing!' split the air...followed by a loud SNAP!!! He stopped cold - to get his bearings - coughed a couple of times, grinned eviley, and headed toward Melissa - Full Tilt!!!
I was passing through the kitchen when I heard her terrified shrieks! "Aaaaa!!! Tippy's loose! MOM!!! TIPPY'S LOOOOSE!!!" Dragging my stomach behind me, I raced out the front door and descended the porch steps in a single bound. As I hit land, Melissa streaked past me, running up the stairs as if a demon from hell was after her. Her face can best be described contorted in terror. And Tippy? Well, Tippy was now racing full bore towards ME! Melissa was in the house screaming, "run Mom run!" SoI ran!
I ran back up the steps with Tippy hot on my heels. I think it was as he began ascending the steps that I heard my mind crack, (I know I heard a noise!), and at that precise moment in time - I realized - It was me or him! I frantically cast my eyes about the porch for a weapon and spying a three foot length of 2x4 laying not far from me, I grabbed it and met him face to face at the top step.
He looked me right in the eye, gave me a "you think you can stop me?" look, snorted and started to bull his way past me so he could go inside and play with the screaming little girl. It was the last straw! I took that 2x4 and hit him between the eyes. (THONK!) He stopped cold, gave his head a little shake and, I guess, convinced himself I was a figment of his imagination. Because, he tried again to gain access to the house. And I, let him have it again, twice this time. (THONK! THONK!) He moo-d once, stumbled, and descended the steps backward and with me hot in pursuit. When we both reached solid ground he turned and faced me once more. His total insanity became abundantly apparent as he began making little jumping up and down movements while butting the 2x4! And, He would not stop! So I thonked him again! And again! And again! I finally got tired of the game and whacked him on the rump. He turned around, gave me a dirty look and headed out to the front yard to wait for Bill to get home from work.
When Bill got home, Tippy met him in the driveway, racing and bounding alongside the car. Bill was able to see that this was no ordinary greeting,(he claims there was something abnormal in Tippy's grin), and so, before he exited the car he reached into the back and grabbed a hammer. He stepped out of the car calmly, and looked Tippy in the eye. Tippy grinned, stood up on his hind legs, and got ready to kiss Bill. Bill let him have between the eyes. (thonk!) Tippy was not one to quit too soon. After all, Bill might just be fooling. So Tippy reared up again and Bill thonked him again! Then Tippy started butting the hammer! So Bill thonked him three or four more times on the head and finally, got one good whack in, on Tippy's rump. Tippy hated to have his rump whacked so he bounded away, and Bill walked into the house, shaking his head, and wondering how much more we could take.
From then on - until Tippy's demise - we never left the porch unarmed. He continued his erratic behavior and we counted the days until processing time.
Finally the day arrived when Tippy 'came of age'. He was now
ready to leave the realm of 'trouble on the hoof' and become
consumable to the family. We called the Mobile Meat Men and
made arrangements for the blessed event. We then left for a
little vacation. We returned to 350 lbs. of boxed frozen beef.
He was wonderful eating and we enjoyed every bite. And as near
as I can tell from adding up the cost of milk replacer, grain,
hay, shots, surgery and rope. He only cost us $6.00 per pound!