Killer Cows

21

These big bulls are maintained and fed solely for their stud services.
They’re supposedly not much good to eat

A dear friend came up in the 1930s on a rural Mississippi farm. Growing up on a farm is a bit of a trope in the modern era. Back in the days before World War II, in the Deep South, however, it was a common way of life.

My wife is smart, assertive and capable. She is also of modest stature. Friends tell me the only substantive thing I contribute to our relationship is the capacity to reach tall things in the kitchen. So it sort of is with guys of other species as well.

In the bovine world, the women really do all the work. At a farm near where we live today, the cows and calves wander about freely in a massive expansive pasture. The cows keep busy gossiping about cow stuff while feeding and grooming the youngsters. There seems to be a social order to it all. Then there is a single massive bull maintained by all by his lonesome in his own separate space down the road.

I’m told those big bulls are too tough to make particularly good steaks. That big guy is kept around for one purpose and one purpose only. He’s there solely to make little cows. Outside of breeding season, the price he pays is a lifetime of solitude. On my buddy’s farm, their big breeder bull was an enormous docile creature named Ephraim.

There is a strange hierarchy among cows. The females of the
species seem to do all the real work.

The Villain

A fully grown bull can weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Even if they have a sweet disposition, an animal that large can yet still be incredibly dangerous. If they are by their nature grouchy, then things can get dicey quickly. So it was at another farm down the road from my friend’s place.

Their breeder bull made fine baby cows, but he hated everybody. One day a farm hand got sloppy, and the big animal crushed him to death. News travels fast in the rural Deep South, so word of this tragedy made the rounds in a hurry. Condolences were offered, and a plan contrived. The following day the big animal was to pay for his sins. His steaks might be tough, but somebody, somewhere would be willing to eat them. Now hold that thought.

The Misunderstanding

It was getting late, and the light was growing dim. As my friend was cleaning up after supper, he looked out the window and saw Ephraim standing outside the pasture. Ephraim was indeed a docile creature, but he was still a big, dumb animal. Sometimes a good scratching against the fence was adequate to push it over. My buddy sighed and headed outside. He would return the bull to the pasture and then run the fence the following morning to mend the damage. By the time he got outside, the light was failing.

Ephraim was essentially a family pet and responded reliably when spoken to. Our hero patted the big animal on the flank and opened the nearby pasture gate. He directed the bull back into the enclosure and stepped aside to allow the beast to comply. Ephraim simply looked at him dumbly.

By now, it was getting late, and the man was getting tired. He gestured to the gaping gate and slapped the animal vigorously on its flank. The bull just stared at him. This time he let out a little snort. Now things were in danger of escalation.

My buddy retrieved a nearby discarded length of 2×4 lumber and used it to give Ephraim a decent prod. At that, the big animal turned to face his antagonist. He then glowered uncharacteristically and snorted like he meant it.

Such stuff seems cold and cruel to those who have not lived it, but farm animals exist in a harder world than do we modern civilized folk. Right, wrong, or otherwise, these creatures are raised for food. There is certainly no excuse for rank abuse, but there is little time or inclination for undue civility, either.

Ephraim pawed the ground and lowered his head. It was clear that the animal planned to make an issue of this. The beast had tasted the sweet elixir of freedom and apparently had little interest in returning to his place of incarceration. As Ephraim made to lunge at the man, my buddy swung the 2×4 and broke it squarely across the hulking animal’s skull.

The big bull was momentarily stunned. With a look of bewilderment in his eyes, he then turned and obediently marched into the pasture. My pal secured the gate and went to bed, both aggravated and confused by the evening’s atypical proceedings.

The following day broke bright and clear. My pal got up early, as was his custom, took breakfast, and prepared to start a new day. As he looked out the front window across the expansive pasture, he was shocked to see not one but two bulls munching happily. One was the expected Ephraim, while the other was the homicidal neighbor from down the road who had somehow escaped his enclosure on the day before his scheduled execution.

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