. . . you married a man who can field dress a 1,300 pound steer with a pocket knife.
At 3 a.m.
By pickup headlights.
I woke up about 2 a.m. this morning to the sound of the Farmer going outside. This in itself is not alarming. Life in the country means a certain amount of nocturnal prowling. The Farmer and I have gotten up at odd and sundry hours to check on cows having calves, to double check gates and to hastily secure barn and machine shed doors when wild weather blows in.
I rolled over and went back to sleep. Within minutes, the Farmer was back. I could hear him banging around in the basement, then the sound of the basement door slamming as he left again. Whatever.
After a brief interlude, the pickup went roaring down the lane. Hmm. Curious. But I was getting up in 2 1/2 hours to go to the state fair and since the night before had been interrupted by a 4 a.m. calving, I really didn't think it was necessary to loose two good nights' sleep in a row. Whatever the crisis was, unless I got a personal invitation, he could keep it to himself.
Pretty soon, I could hear a tractor in high gear coming down the road. It had to be the Farmer, returning from another farm, having traded pickup for tractor. Really, who else would be driving a tractor in road gear at 2:30 a.m. Sure enough, it throttled down at the end of the lane, turned in, then opened up again, coming up the lane and past the house to the barn.
Another pickup roared in behind it. Okay. NOW I got out of bed. Oddly enough, Jamie slept through the whole thing, confirming my suspicion that his hearing really IS gone and he's not just faking it. Phoenix accompanied me from window to window, as I watched the Farmer's brother jump out of his pickup, climb the fence and disappear into the darkness of the steer yard.
Enough cloak and dagger. I was tired. I was getting up in 2 hours. I went back to bed and tried not to listen to the sounds of a tractor and occasional disjointed yelling.
Then I went outside this morning and in the misty light of pre-dawn, saw the loader tractor parked in front of the machine shed, bucked raised, with an approximately 1,300 pound steer, neatly field dressed, hanging by its hind hooves from a chain looped around the bucket.
The Farmer was AWOL. (It turned out, he'd been sleeping in his pickup, being not exactly clean enough to come back to bed after the night's adventure, and completely missed me leaving for the state fair at 5 a.m.) I went to the state fair (a post in itself) and didn't get the whole story until I got home this afternoon to find the barn yard returned to a state of normalcy that did not look like something out of a Steven King novel.
Having been a cattleman's wife for 20 years, the two things that strike terror into their hearts are A) cattle running en masse through fences and B) cattle "getting over on their back."
This was a case of the latter.
The steer in question had "gotten over on its back," meaning it had laid down and due to a slight slope in the ground, literally hadn't been able to get up. Unfortunately, due to the way cattle are constructed, that leaves a lot of weight pressing on their lungs, they can't breathe and it's slow death by suffocation.
The Farmer — who only hears about 50 percent of the things I say to him — heard, from our bedroom, which is maybe 75-100 yards away from the steer yard, the sound of bovine distress in the middle of the night. I heard nothing. Maybe I need MY hearing checked.
He ran out to investigate and sure enough, a steer had gotten over on its back. Its fate was sealed. You can't just smack them on the butt and they get up and all is well. The Farmer ran back to the house, got his pocket knife and cut the animal's throat to end its suffering. Then he called his brother, who lives about 10 minutes away, and the two of them hung it by its heels from the loader bucket and field dressed the beast with their pocket knives. In the dark.
I feel compelled to insert a Crocodile Dundee quote here, at the risk of dating myself. All you children of the '80s will remember "That's not a knife, THIS is a knife!" Okay. Back to the story.
This morning, they called the local locker who always processes our meat to come and get it, but the folks who run the locker were out of town on vacation. So then they called the local grocery store (the Brother is conveniently married to a part owner of said grocery store) to see if they could temporarily store the meat in the grocery store's coolers. Yes, but it was still going to have to be roughly butchered since a dressed out steer is really not much smaller than a steer on the hoof. About the only thing missing was the head, hide and guts.
The Farmer and his brother, with their pocket knives, and a fellow from the meat department of the grocery store, with a bone cutter, finished butchering the carcass, wrapped it in plastic and hauled it to town where it is now resting in peace. Err . . . pieces.