“Did you ever look at a cow or a pig? They’re ugly. We’re doing them a favor by eating them. It saves them from having to look at each other. But a horse is a noble beast.”
This paraphrased quote from Col. Potter of M*A*S*H came to mind when I heard Lori Dann speak of how the cows’ day was disrupted and ultimately ended. Without a 30-day written notice or a trial, they were kidnapped from their peaceful, blissful existence of chewing cud to a world that included noise, lights, and strange surroundings. Her perspective was echoed by our teacher and mentor, George Getschow.
Living a significant part of my youth on a farm gave me a different perspective.
Every day, cows wake up, eat, wander around, then go back to sleep. That’s pretty much it. Some are milked, but that’s a pleasure reserved for a chosen few, mostly Holsteins.
Except for Bessie, our jersey superstar milk cow, we didn’t keep cows long. They weren’t pets. We didn’t name them. That just wasn’t done. They were a commodity. You don’t name your money.
Horses were different. We broke them, trained them, sneaked them sugar cubes. Over a period of years, we developed a relationship. They nuzzled us, came when we called; they could sense friendship and loyalty. We spent time with them, cleaned them, combed them, enjoyed riding them for hours. We never made money off them, but that wasn’t the point. Horses have personalities. Dixie, a docile filly palomino, was probably my stepmother’s favorite. Then there was the spirited, 14-hand-high chestnut, Docca, the one who tripped at full gallop, leaving me on the ground, literally breathless, saddle resting across my torso. Sure I rode him again. I had to. And I think he appreciated a chance at redemption. We’d been together too long to let one mistake ruin an otherwise solid relationship.
On the farm, animals are not created equal. Cows might have been worth more, but horses were priceless.
Harry Hall is a 2013 alum of the Archer City Writer’s Workshop.