“We are going to have to bottle feed this calf,” my dad announced.
As a farm girl, I was accustomed to hearing my dad talk about our small herd of cattle. But, this was the first time that I had wanted to help out. Something about the calf’s bleating cry and orphaned state truly made my heart go out to the little guy.
“His mother didn’t make it and it will be up to us to keep him alive,” my dad continued. “I can take care of the morning feeding. Kandy, you will be responsible for him in the afternoons when you get home from school. Think you can handle that?”
Only a week old, “Trouble” wasn’t much bigger than our family dog. My dad taught me how to mix the milk formula and to stretch the red nipple over the neck of the 2-quart bottles. Bigger than any baby bottle I’d ever seen, I discovered that the size suited Trouble just right. For about three and a half months, my dad and I took turns feeding Trouble twice everyday.
Trouble caught on quickly and loved to eat. Every day when I came in from school, Trouble was waiting for me by the gate, bawling to let me know that my own snack would have to wait. He was an impatient pet and I think he would have followed me in the house had I let him.
I was especially fascinated by the little horns that began to develop on his head. When the first short stubs appeared, my dad showed me how to double my fist and push against the top of head. Trouble loved this game and we played it often after his feeding.
“That feels good to his emerging horns,” my dad explained. “It’s kinda like giving a baby a teething ring to chew on.”
Trouble took up lots of time during those months and I really enjoyed the time that we spent together. We had our own language as I could recognize his particular call and mimic it pretty well. In fact, it was almost like he was a part of our family.
The problem was that Trouble felt that way too. He had grown into an 800-pound bull and still preferred to play the butting game with us, rather than with the rest of the herd. One day, in fact, he knocked my dad over with his “gentle” nudge.
“He’ll have to be sold,” my dad decided.
The news tore through my 10-year-old heart, and no amount of begging and crying could change the decision.
That night in bed, in between the tears, I came up with the perfect solution:
If I could take out Trouble’s cow nature and trade it with a human one,
I was pretty sure my parents would let him move in.
(Continued in tomorrow’s post….)
(photo above is Trouble with my nephew, Danny Tinney)