Friday, August 12, 2011

The drought turns deadly

Sabbath eve, August 12, 2011.

I walk outside into a night lit by an almost full moon. Dukes and Polly pad along behind. I see forms on the ground, scattered near the boundary of our property. I know what they are; I shouldn’t be out here, but then, I must. There’s a shoulder, a hind leg, skinned but still otherwise intact. I notice the hoof. Then a torso with a familiar head, remains of a cow I called Butterfat.

I sold the cow about six months ago to Martin, a hand that lives and works on another place my dad owns. I sold her bred; she soon calved, a beautiful pure-bred Jersey heifer. I did this as a favor to Martin, not because I wanted to get rid of her. I have several milk cows, he had none. She raised her own calf and two more, and even gave two gallons of additional milk per day. That is until the summer heat began taking its toll.

I’d drive by occasionally and see her lying under a lone shade tree, panting. She’d had difficulty with the heat last year as well, so I didn’t think much of it. Then, about two weeks ago Martin asked if I would like to buy her back, saying he didn’t have time to care for her properly.

She stepped off the trailer. I noticed she had lost a lot of weight. She staggered as she walked. I was disheartened but determined to restore her to health.

I fed her grain twice a day, gave her all the hay and alfalfa she could eat and treated her for mastitis. Two quarters were swollen; who knows how long she had been in trouble.

I noticed she was having a terrible time with the heat and not eating well. I began spraying her with water at least once, if not then twice every afternoon. Day after day after day, temperatures soared above the century mark, relentlessly scorching the ground and all living creatures below. Sometimes I would pull on her tail to help her gain her feet when she tried to stand. She’d spend days in the shade of a walk-in shelter and get up to eat only in the evenings and at night.

A couple of days ago, pulling the tail wasn’t enough. When she got to her feet she staggered and fell, again, and again, and again. Then she quit trying to get up. At one point I lost it and kicked her in anger. I immediately felt like shit and tried to offer an apology.

Yesterday I found Butterfat laid out in the sun in a daze, shivering and pawing in agony as the sun baked her. She couldn't make it back to the shade and I was unable to move her. I took a hose and bathed her body for a while until she seemed a bit more comfortable and gave her a drink from a bucket. Then I got a gun and shot her in the head. (Even ex-felons can have black powder muzzle loaders.)

I cut up her body and left it for the dogs and whatever wildlife that may take their chances with a pack of Pyrennes guard dogs.

Fuck your goddamned stock market, the price of gold or silver, or oil or corn or whatever else you have to sell. I don't give a shit about any of this right now. I don't care who's doing who or why.

The heat of this awful drought just killed Butterfat.

I tried to save her, but I couldn't.


  1. Tough Duty Don..., sometimes not matter how well intentioned or necessary our duties are..., it just doesn't feel good.

    Once again..., mercy granted Don. Write on.

  2. thank you for this post Don. It broke my heart, I wish for better days for you, and rain, blessed rain.

  3. This post brought me out of years of lurking. I'm so sorry. Yes- fuck them all.

  4. had my share of "Puttin Down" good animals...

    One of the hardest things for a man to do.....

    And You are right mister........

    "Fuck Them ALL"

  5. Sorry for your loss! Maybe you can get one of her calves and call her/him "Skim-Milk" in honor of Butterfat? would an evap cooler in the barn area help any?