Tag Archives: Cattle

Why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

As benchmarks go, I have one coming up.  My blog will surpass 100,000 hits sometime today or early this evening.  That’s not like a seventieth birthday or turning twenty-one, and it will not be chiseled on some rock for passersby to see on the road to Samarkand.  It’s a blog thing, don’t you know?

Whether many or most people have read entire posts or have glanced and surfed on, I have no way of knowing.  What I do know is that one of my posts, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ March 30, 2011, has continued to rack up over 1,000 hits a week for several months.  If I am to be known by one piece of writing in my life, this is the composition I desire that to be.

I want it remembered because with beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we attend that performance in reverence — or at least we should.

‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ was written in one, long sitting, but I had thought about the content and structure for a long time.  To be quick about it, I had wanted to write about Thomas Keller, the chef of the French Laundry in California, not because of his fine cuisine, but because of his full experience with preparing a rabbit dish, from slaughter to the pan.  He vowed not to waste that rabbit he had personally slaughtered.  This young man in learning the skills of his trade, to become one the world’s most heralded chefs, had insight of  a Socrates in the backyard of a restaurant.  He would not waste the life he had taken.

I nearly always seek humor in writing about nature and our relationship to our good earth.  That’s hard to find these days in the midst of waste, tar pit oil and needless consumerism, but it is there to alleviate the anguish of what we see and read about.  My post, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ however, had no humor, no comedy and it just, frankly, turned out that way.

The humor in ‘The fox, the hare and the chef,’ is not evident, but it is there.  When I started to raise a beautiful herd of Angus cattle in 2007, I was going to be an impersonal cattleman — no affection or emotion for the heifers and steers, all business, no silliness or attachment.  Well, was I ever caught asleep.  In caretaking the Angus, I was shot twenty-seven times by cupid; for in each of the twenty-seven cows I raised, I found myself seeing personality, behavior patterns and sociability I never thought existed.  I walked among the creatures, just to be with them.  Go figure, I fell in love with a herd of cloven-hoofed beasts!  Impersonal?  Heavens no!  I took care of those cattle like they were my own offspring.  Funny, but also quite serious.

So, when I loaded the twenty-seven Angus in the stock trailer to take them to Carter Cattle Company for transport to Perryton, Texas, the cleanest feedlot in the state, a part of me went with them, and I knew that their rearing to that point had been the best around.  Whatever table they came to, I wanted people sustained with a healthy product and a sense that the great chain of being continue with a reverence for the gift of life on their plate — like Keller’s little bunnies.  Don’t waste the cattle I tended with love, and don’t waste your own life in boundless folly, for that does not honor the life in front of you — or on your plate.

With beauty comes violence, and, as human beings, we should attend that performance in reverence.  That is why I wrote, ‘The fox, the hare and the chef.’

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Thomas Keller, The Importance of Rabbits,‘ The French Laundry Cookbook, New York: Artisan, 1999.  See page 205 for the essay, recipe on page 207.

The fox is beautiful to behold, but it will take its cut in the barnyard and in the field — beauty and violence.

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Quail and deer lease my field

Deer skull with prairie grass (2011).

Temperatures reached 102 degrees yesterday.  Work slows or stops at 11:00 a.m.  Winds blew fierce, reaching 40 m.p.h. in gusts.  Yet, the pastures are green, the grass not browning for the moment.

* * *

Two days ago I shredded several narrow paths about the pastures.  I do not shred fields or pastures.  As I shredded a narrow path around the edges of Pecan Tree Pasture, I flushed a bobwhite quail.  Just one quail, but it is significant for quail habitually cluster in coveys.  Quail have disappeared in large portions of the area from hunting, shredding pastures, cropping and the spread of fire ants that kill young chicks.  I have reseeded the Pecan Tree Pasture with native grass and allowed the field to remain fallow for several years.  If I see more quail — the late sighting proving to not be an isolated occurrence — I will conclude I have done well in partial restoration of a native habitat.

* * *

Yesterday I sighted three mature deer and a fawn between the grove and the stock pond.  It is odd that their color is so pale brown, almost yellow, against the greenery of Spring.  Deer return, quail flush.  The fawn pranced.

* * *

As I sat on the back porch yesterday afternoon, a cattleman from Gordon knocked on the door.  He wanted to lease the pasture that I had flushed the quail and seen the deer — a monthly lease depending upon the number of cattle he would place.  I refused.  I told him that I would probably run a few head myself.  He stated that he had seen no cattle on the pasture and that’s why he had inquired.  I took his card and he said he was looking for pasture within ten miles of Gordon, so that if I heard of any land available for rent, please let him know.  I politely said I would.

Other inquires will follow this Spring.  They always do from cattlemen or harvesters of grass.  And, I always refuse and politely explain that I have the pasture for horses or a few head of cattle.  I have not run any cattle for four years.  I may put a few on the land this Spring, but not many and they will not disturb either deer or quail.  In the field, the Big Bluestem grass will be higher than the withers of horse and rump of cattle.

* * *

I had to kill a copperhead in the barn two days ago.  I knelt down to air up a tire and moved a salt block receptacle to position myself and a copperhead lay under the receptacle.  I will be cleaning out the barn early next week.  I had planned to do so — in fact I had moved six boxes of books to my office in Abilene a week ago –, but the danger of snake bite spurs me sooner to glean the barn.  My air conditioner repairman and contractor lost part of a finger last year from a copperhead bite.  For some reason, we have more copperheads in this portion of north Erath County, Texas, than most areas.

* * *

The photograph at the beginning of the post was taken over at Pecan Tree Pasture about where the solitary bobwhite was sighted.  I was observing the growth of native grasses a month ago and happened across the deer skull with horns.  I consider myself keenly observant of objects in my field of sight, but the grass has grown so high, secrets are undisclosed unless one tramps the land.  The skull remains in situ.  I like the simplicity, the complexity intertwined: deer, native grasses, treeline.

The field wholly remains in situ, lightly touched, deeply felt.

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Filed under Birds, Deer, Field Log, Life in Balance

No more rodeo

 

Texas Cowboy Reunion rodeo opening scene.

Received news today after doctor’s examination that I had an acute (severe) irritation of the cartilage in my left knee caused by arthritis.  No surgery is planned, nor  M.R.I.  The warning signs of the knee giving way, freezing up or ballooning the size of a grapefruit will necessitate further action, but for now, no more running or rodeo.

Not that I ever got caught up in rodeo.  The last one I participated in was back in 1958 when Brian Bettis and I scrambled for calves at the Comanche County Rodeo.  We came in second, bruised and somewhat bloody by the calf.  Calf won, we lost.  Since then, I’ve always worked cattle using a squeeze chute.  The simplest squeeze chute is to block both ends of the chute with heavy timber.  The cattle I handled were not abused and came to be accustomed to the chute to the point they stood calm while I doctored or vaccinated.  I will continue to work cattle with the chute since it doesn’t require heavy labor, just patience.

In any case, Sawbones said that I could not run or sprint again and that I would have to wait awhile to go back to the dance hall.  I love to dance.  I hear fiddle music and I am carried away.  But I have to wait awhile.

Gruene dance hall, oldest in Texas.

Further, the Doc said I needed to get some riding shoes or boots with soft soles.  After leaving his office, we went to Cavenders and I bought some Ariats with soft soles.  I wore them out of the dry goods store and they feel really good.

The cane?  Well, yes, I bought a cheapie at Walgreens and will use it for infrequent occasions.  My first use of it was to poke Brenda in the backside.  She did not appreciate that.

It is a bench mark to be told that “the running days are over.”  I ran occasionally in the pastures for exercise, but it was never a habit pattern.  Still, it’s a solemn note on the music score today.  Yet, I hear music and it’s a band with fiddle and guitar.  Come on, Brenda, let’s waltz across the floor!  You’re not a widow yet.

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Texas Rancher An Unlikely Environmentalist : NPR

Texas Rancher An Unlikely Environmentalist : NPR.

Down near Johnson City, Texas, this rancher has taken worn-out land and turned it into a place for wildlife, cattle, grass, plants and trees.  He’s even built a bat cave!

Although prosperous through salesmanship and Church’s Fried Chicken, he never forgot his farming roots in the Mid-West and once able, bought over-used ranch land and restored it.

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