Duce's Wild: Disabled calf teaches life lesson

By Stacie L. Duce

For Mormon Times

Published: Thursday, June 23 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

Having never milked a cow nor driven a tractor, I was raised one step removed from farm life, but my appreciation still runs deep.

My dad grew up on a dairy/dry farm in Grace, Idaho, and saved for college and his mission by raising and selling cows. He then milked at a dairy near BYU’s campus before and after classes where his sacrifice secured a bright future as a provider. I was raised in Salt Lake’s suburbs but learned to work like a farm girl nonetheless.

I married into a family where agriculture was a revered hobby and traditional source of satisfaction. My husband has plenty of family stories that involve pigs in the camper when the river flooded their hobby farm, crazy farm dog antics and his knack for naps in the sunshine on horseback after school.

Our young family is no stranger to life with animals. We currently only have multiplying guinea pigs at our home but have kept cats, chickens, cows, goats and pigs in Grandpa’s barn. Who knew I’d raise girls who bring home 4-H grand champion ribbons for showmanship with hogs?

Our extended family’s latest adventure in animal husbandry began with several cow/calf pairs to keep the meadow grazed, but Grandpa just couldn’t say no to an extra calf that came with a frostbitten buddy. The two were bottle-fed for several weeks, providing fun for my kids and visiting cousins.

While one little Angus is ready to join the herd in the pasture, the other is not. He was born on a freezing spring night when his little ears and hind legs were damaged beyond repair.

The other day, another portion of his leg snapped off, leaving exposed bone at the knee joint, yet he thrives on Grandpa’s attention and special treatment. Large dog shoes were recently purchased to give him extra protection while the open wounds heal, but he’d rather kick them off and lounge in clean hay with wandering chickens for company. As soon as Grandpa arrives with a feed bucket in hand, the calf climbs to attention as best he can.

I am well aware that in a for-profit, cattle-producing operation, there is no time nor means to dote on disabled livestock, but thank heavens for retirees with patience, empathy and space to give these loving animals a second chance.

The other day at dinner, I asked my father-in-law what was going to happen when it came time to sell the herd and harvest at least one to fill the freezer. He shook his head and shuddered at the thought of eating his new pet.

So, I guess it’s about time to give the calf a name and really get attached. Someone suggested “giraffe” since his stance is a little like those long necks with longer front legs, but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue like a pet name should. We could call him “knee-knee,” but I don’t think any of us would like to be named based on our disability or weakness. I’ve heard my son say “Frosty” might work.

Whatever name sticks, this long-lashed calf is definitely sticking around to melt our hearts and inspire us to stand tall despite our less-than-perfect nature.

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