Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Butcher's Wife

Today started as any other day.  When I woke up, there were no signs that today, this day, would be any different from most of our days.  The following is a transcription of my day as it actually occurred...
I woke up this morning and shared a cup of coffee with my soon to be 7 year old son.  You see, he is the only person in this house who drinks coffee.  I groomed him to be a coffee drinker.  I need someone to share my morning coffee with now and in 20 years when he comes home to visit.  I started breakfast (PW's Egg In A Hole), which is nothing shy of taking a slice of bread, cutting a hole in the center with a biscuit cutter, then pan frying an egg in the center all the while the bread is swimming in melted butter.  I must confess that I tried this many months ago with NO success and vowed that it never be attempted in my kitchen again.  However, I caved and somehow it came out a success.  But, in the split second I was relishing in my success, my world began to crumble without me even knowing it.  Okay, I am being a little melodramatic, but it was the beginning of the end of my day.

My husband was outside and for a brief moment I saw that he was penning a steer, Norman.  The story on Norman is this.  We purchased him 3 years ago when I got my second milk cow, Daisy.  He was a little tyke that would eventually grace the presence of our freezer.  About 5 months after we got him, we went in partners with some friends of ours.  He went to live with them and when it came time to process him, we would split the bounty.  Now 3 years later, as life would have it, we never got around to butchering him.  About two weeks ago, he came back home.  And, for two weeks we have swung like a pendulum as to what to do with him.  Do we take him to the packing plant or the sale?  You see we have 3 other steers coming up.  I must insert a side story here.  A couple of days ago I was visiting with a friend who is also a fellow milk maid.  She mentioned that her daughter asked her if my husband processed our own beef.  Her response was, "There is no doubt that he COULD do it, but I don't think he does."  Have I ever mentioned how strongly I believe the power of spoken words?  I would also like to say, that even though my husband and I decided not to exchange Christmas presents this year, I gave him a copy of a book called "Basic Home Butchering of Livestock and Game" which would prove very hand later in the day.   Now, to get back to the original story, I see my husband pushing Norman into the "yard" (our yard is about 2 acres of fenced area by the barn and mobile home).  He then calls me to come help him because the steer, who looks like a wicked beefalo cross with nasty horns, oh and he weighs nearly 1000#, has decided he would rather NOT go in the pen.  All of this is signaling to me that Norman will not be in the freezer but is going to the sale. 

I proceed to go outside in my thermal socks and flip flops to help.  The funny thing here is that I, not being raised in the country, have a different "way" of working cows.  You see, my cows and my goats are all dairy goats.  They are prima donnas, if you will.  My husband grew up on a working ranch where you push cows instead of luring them.  I am sure it goes against everything that my husband is made of when I start "singing" the cows/goats individual names and they run to me.  I shouldn't really say's more of a yodel really.  Things start falling apart at the seams as my husband is pushing Norman, so in comes Buelah.  Buelah is my work horse of the dairy cows.  She is a gentle giant who sports my great-grandmother's cow bell around her neck.  I have found it particularly useful when "luring" your cow to a particular location.  By the loudness and quickness of it's ringing, you are able to judge when you are about to get run over like a speed bump.  Shortly after Buelah enters the picture, I watch my husband drive off.  It is important to know that my husband is a particularly chivalrous man and that he had an appointment that he had to make by 9:00 am.  Some women would have been angered that without a spoken word he was gone.  But, me being the odd ball, I swelled with pride that he left knowing that I, alone with my 6 year old son, would no doubt get that steer penned.  And, not to be boastful, we did it within 5 minutes.  I did decide to leave Buelah in the pen until my husband's return that afternoon.  In hindsight, maybe it was that I didn't like the way Norman acted without dear Buelah. 

My husband returned home earlier from his appointments than I expected.  At which time, he hooked up the trailer and called the oldest kids to help him load Norman.  On the outside, all appears not too far out of the norm for us.  Until my husband comes inside and tells me to come look what the stupid steer did.  Now, we all know that stupid is not a very nice word, however, there are times when it is one of the only appropriate descriptives.  What happened next, I would have never expected.  I mean I have seen cows flatten gates, tear down fences, jump (and clear) fences without a scratch, but never have I seen this.  They had penned Buelah, Norman and my dairy goats in a smaller trap which makes loading/unloading livestock easier.  My son pushed the goats and Buelah out of the pen leaving Norman alone.  Loneliness does strange things to people cows.  And, when my husband turned his back to open the gate, Norman the Stupid Steer began to act....well, stupid.  He went to the gate, at which my kids were standing on the opposite side, and proceeded to butt his head against it.  When this part of the story is being retold to me, I was ever thankful that both of the kids were not hurt.  But, Norman didn't stop there, he then decided from a standing position he would see if he could clear the gate...which he didn't.  He did manage to get his front legs on it, then instead of backing off, he slid his way to the hinge, hung his foot at the ankle, laid down and flipped over, snapping his leg in two at the ankle.  Forgive me for keeping it real, but again it is what it is.  This sends my day into a frenzy.  It took my husband nearly 30 minutes to get him out (I wasn't much help here because although I think I am one tough cookie, there are just some things that make me want to cry....animals suffering is one of them) and he lost his leg from the ankle down.  I immediately come into the house trying to find a packing plant to take him.  I learned alot about the packing industry today and some things I am not quite pleased with.  I called all plants within 100 miles of us, told them my story,  and all of them were too busy to take him, with the exception of one.  However, today wasn't a kill day so he would have to suffer until tomorrow.   My husband is a tough ol' cowboy, but he does not believe in letting things suffer.  So, he rose to the occasion and decided we would process the steer ourselves.  Within the hour, his step father brings over a backhoe, which makes our life much simpler, I mean as simple as it can get at this point.  As my step-father-in-law is assesssing what is going on at our house, I boast that I gifted my husband this really great book, at which point my husband laughs and says "It's not like I had a chance to read it yet!".  We managed to get the initial part of the processing done.  The cold front that is coming in is working in our favor but we'll spend the next few days consumed by nearly 500# of beef.  At one point during the day of misdadventure, when we were both ingrossed in the processing, my husband said, "I could do this for a living."  My response was, "I could so be the butcher's wife!".

Although my day did not go as planned, it did prove to me why I don't normally make plans.  Me and plans are like oil and water.  We can comingle together (I love the idea of plans), but we never really "blend".  It is a vain effort to make plans in my life, because there is always something like this that comes up.  And, to be honest, I don't mind.  A wise friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that God had laid on her heart about how often we make idols of things in our lives.  And for her, she realized that her need to adhere to a  strict schedule was just that and when her day went off schedule she became angry with her children.  When that happened she would throw a hissy fit because her day was no longer in her control.  As she told me this, I felt so blessed to have it revealed to me, areas in my life that I had taken away from God.  Because I, too, am guilty of being a "spoiled brat" when things don't go my way.  I have prayed that God would work on my heart (which is often painful and slow) and today, on this day, I let it go and let it be God.  So, my day wasn't what I expected.  School didn't get done (or so I thought).  My laundry didn't get done.  But, God provided food for my family and an wonderful opportunity for my children.  And, just when I thought school didn't get done, we were able to have a HUGE science lesson in anatomy.  I can feel sure that my kids, if in public school, would not have gotten this kind of science today! 

On that note, for any of you readers that have questions about sharing these kinds of things with your children, these are my thoughts on it.  My children have been blessed with a life that allows them a true understanding of where our food comes from.  Yes, all of our animals have names, even the ones that will eventually end up on our table.  Yes, we love on them and enjoy them.  We provide for them up until they provide for us.  And, yes, I have to admit that each one of my children, when young, have been saddened by this.  However, my answer to them is simple.  Each one of us, all creatures, have a God-given purpose on earth.  How wonderful is it for us to fulfill God's purpose?  How wonderful is it to have lived and completed God's work here on earth? 

The Butcher's Wife

1 comment:

  1. Oh Kerri...I love this post. I love your attitude on it ALL!! I could feel your emotions so well through your writing! doesn't always go as planned does it? What a neat story!