Good Black Cows, or a Bastardized Version of the Cowboy’s Blessing

A few years ago, when I was writing solely for the vet clinic, I faced the harsh reality that I was out of daily photos for the clinic’s Facebook page. I posted this plea, “I am in DIRE need of new photos–please send your animals at their very best and funniest,” and fortunately, the photos came rolling in. I received a great one of a dog staring at a cat while the cat slept, several photos of dogs in the snow, a happy photo of a little girl toting a Saint Bernard puppy across a field, and a couple from my friend Abbie as she made her rounds feeding cattle up in Stanford. Abbie has sent me some lovely photos in the past of dreamsicle skies and of feeding cattle during a snowy onslaught, so in retrospect, perhaps this photo might seem to be a bit humdrum. It is this photo, however, that got me to thinking about what I really see when I look at her cows.

  • I see dedication, the hard, grinding work of people who didn’t ride out the (ongoing) polar vortex indoors. Instead, they Carhartted up and were out feeding cattle, breaking ice, and checking on every one of their cows, every single day. It’s not easy work, but it is necessary work.
  • I see pride. These are healthy two- and three-year old cows, and they look darn good. They’re bright-eyed, alert, and have enough flesh on them so you know they’re wintering well (despite Mother Nature’s insistence on being a demonic witch most every year).
  • I see love. Yes, love. Yes, these are cattle that are raised for eventual table use, but until that fateful day, these cattle will have the best life that the Abbie can possibly give them.
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Skelton Ranch Cattle (photo credit Abbie Skelton)

I read a lot of books about food, food production, and the history of food. Since I started writing this blog, I’ve begun following a lot of agriculture-based blogs and writers. I’m glad to see that there is a growing number of people giving voice to a segment of the population too often glossed over or assigned the role of bucolic reverie. For me, Abbie and her work represent mindfulness, a thoughtful, deliberate choice to do work in a manner that is good for the long haul. It’s not easy to raise good cattle, to be good stewards of land and its resources, but she and her family have done so for a long time and will continue to do just that. So where many just see a picture of some cows, I see a legacy of work and what it takes to build for the future.

Well done, Abbie. May you always have just enough rain, may you always have enough hay ground, may your horse never buck, and may the defrost never break in the old feed truck (a slight twist to the cowboy’s blessing).

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