Carolyn (Sue) Hendrick
Last week I shared the story of how we came to have five calves on our new farm. I had bought them for $10.00 each and hauled them twenty miles in the trunk of my car. They were tied and bagged in burlap. After carefully laying each one down with their heads sticking out, the trunk had been tied in an open position to allow for good ventilation.
That was the longest twenty miles that I had ever driven due to many unscheduled stops along the way. Nevertheless, our spirits had not been dampened nor our resolve to complete our task. We persevered with good humor and laughter. When I spied our rusty tin barn with a well-used wooden corral attached, I sent up a few words of “thank you.” The kids bounced out of the back seat and ran to the trunk. My mother stood at a distance with keen interest as to how all of this was going to play out.
The swinging gates were opened from one side and blocked to allow for easy passage of our prize packages. Together, we took the calves one at a time into the corral. Once the five of them were safely on the ground and the gate was securely closed, we began to free them from their bondage. They squirmed and fought our every move. The poor things were almost out of their minds with fear. Big brown eyes rolled around like loose marbles and their mouths were open to pant for water. Their pink tongues sagged and reached for help.
Once they were free, we splashed the water in the trough to show them it was there. The little tan live wires began to hop around and run like goats at play. I was so relieved. I was afraid that their trip in the trunk might have been too much for them. We all laughed at the sight. We guessed that they were so happy to be loose that it didn’t matter where they were. “Five calves,” I thought. If I could have done it myself, a good pat on the back would be totally appropriate. I couldn’t wait to call my husband.
The phone at our business rang twice before I heard his familiar answer. “Hi hon,” I said. “What’s up?” He asked. “You’ll never guess what I did today.” I said. I was so excited that I was almost breathless. “I bought five baby calves for $50.00.” “You did what?” My mood began to slide as I sensed trouble. I explained that the calves were for sale at a farm twenty miles away. “They aren’t dairy calves are they?” “What do you mean?” “I wanted to raise beef cattle.” “Is there a difference?” I thought calves are calves. That was my first lesson on the difference between beef calves and dairy calves. I learned later that day about the difference between bull calves and heifers as well. Farming had a lot more to it than I had imagined.
Our days started a lot earlier as we rose to mix formula, fill bottles, and feed five hungry mouths. It was a family chore that my children didn’t wholly appreciate. I think my husband got a big kick out of waking us up and seeing us “rise and shine.” After a while, the three bull calves were sold. The two heifers were kept for milking. Everything on our farm had a name. We dubbed them “Tinkerbell” and “Little Lady.” Both of them stayed smaller than most jersey cows due to their early removal from their mothers. But, they never knew that they were small and became the milk producers that jerseys are known for.
For a while, I felt that my decision had been the right one after all. They were great producers for such small cows. Drinking their delicious milk, churning their sweet cream into butter (on an electric churn) and turning that milk into the best home-made ice cream that I have ever tasted was a real blessing. Every time we served that wonderful vanilla dessert, I decided that $10.00 was definitely a bargain. Nothing takes the place of real home-made. I guess that goes for just about anything.
Sue Hendrick lived in Diboll for several years. Although she now resides in Lufkin, Diboll will always be her East Texas home.