A Crazy Homecoming –
By Cate Baylor
As the sun dropped lower in the sky, Daphne decided to walk down to the pasture and check on the new calf. Walking down the road, she marveled at the different smells and sounds of the ranch. The green of the grass and yellow of the wildflowers took on a different, deeper hue this time of day. There wasn’t the deep sense of silence and slumber now as there was at dawn, but rather the pent up energy of a day that was winding down.
When she got to the fence of the pasture, she didn’t see the mama and Honda, so she slipped through the fence and wandered towards where Honda was born. It took her only a few minutes to find them.
She stopped a few yards away, a bit unnerved by the sheer size of the mama. Honda was busily nursing and oblivious to Daphne’s approach. Mama, on the other hand, never took her big brown eyes off of the intruder. Although she acted wary, her eyes seemed friendly to Daphne, so she circled around to get a better view of Honda.
I swear he’s grown since this morning. No longer wet and slick, she could see now that he wasn’t black but a deep brown with a white spot on his forehead. His legs looked like wobbly little sticks that couldn’t possibly support the head that seemed way too big for his spindly body. Damn, he’s adorable!
She was working up the guts to get closer when she heard, “Well, howdy.”
She nearly jumped out of her skin. She was so intent on the cows that she hadn’t heard Mick approach. Clapping her hand to her chest, she took a few deep breaths to recover.
“Whoa!” he said, reaching out to steady her. “I wasn’t trying to startle you.”
Her heart still hadn’t settled, so she just waved her hand in acceptance of his almost apology.
“Come to check on our boy?”
Smiling she said, “Yes. I just couldn’t help it. Has he really already grown? I swear he’s grown.”
“He’s got a lot of growing to do these first few days and he’s certainly got a good start.”
“How long will he and his mama be out here?” she wondered.
“Oh, once he’s a couple of weeks old, we’ll probably move them back to the herd.”
“How long will he stay with his mother?”
Surprised at her curiosity he answered. “We try to wait six or eight months before we wean a calf and decide whether to keep or sell it. The nice thing about him being born in the fall is that we’ll have a couple of extra months. If we decide to sell him, he’ll have more time grazing and growing, and will fetch more money at auction.”
Daphne gasped. “You mean he’s going to be butchered?”
“That depends on what someone buys him for. I doubt it in this case. He’s good enough stock that he’d make a good bull for breeding. On a ranch, selling stock for food is part of how we make a living.”
“Sure, I know,” Daphne murmured. “I’m not used to having such direct involvement in the circle of life.”
Mick noticed the shine of tears in her eyes and was immediately riled. “Why is that so upsetting to you people?”
“‘You people’?” she demanded. “Do you mean women?”
“No,” he said, as if he was trying to reason with a child. “I know plenty of women, your grandmother for example, who don’t get squeamish about the fact that our food comes from animals. I mean people like you. Spoiled city slickers,” he sneered.
That, in turn, got Daphne riled. “That’s a nasty thing to say.”
“What? It’s true.” He jabbed his index finger at her. “Just a second ago, you were getting teary eyed over the idea of Honda here becoming the next ribeye you eat.”
“It’s not a genetic defect or a character shortcoming, Mick. I’ve never been around animals, whether they’re cows or goldfish. Choosing which animal becomes my next meal just hasn’t been part of my world. I bet you’d be quaking in your self-righteous boots if you were faced with attending the opera or running a board meeting. I could just as easily make a similar wide-sweeping generalization about you being some overly macho hick. So shove it up your ass, shit flicker.” And with that well aimed zinger she turned to walk away.
Mick chuckled. “I think you mean ‘shit kicker.'”
She turned around ready to scream and swear some more but his expression took the steam right out of her. She thought he looked sheepish but wasn’t sure. Carrying on a conversation with this man was confounding and just plain irritating. She seemed to always end up putting her foot in her mouth or wanting to smash it into his.
“Listen,” she snapped getting revved up again. “I know that for whatever reason you don’t like me or approve of me or whatever. But just because I’m a ‘city slicker’ who’s never lived on a ranch, don’t you dare assume I’m not smart enough or strong enough to understand and appreciate the life.” He looked about as shocked by this outburst as she felt.
“My life fell apart, and when I needed to hide and heal, when I needed love and family, Nana was the one I came to. Nana was the one person I could come to. And she accepted me with open arms. She is my family and the most important person in the world to me, so I’m here for the long haul. It seems to me like that’s something you’re going to have to learn to deal with.”