Ch.101 The Story of Blackberry the Steer: How Pat Saved a Life and Gained a Large Friend
Every family has its stories that get passed down from one generation to the next. One of ours tells how one day Pat came home with a calf. I’ve heard her tell this story many times. I want to get it into print now so others can hear it too. I’m writing in first person, as if Pat were here telling you the story.
It was a very cold day in mid-winter Wisconsin, about minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. I was driving from home to an appointment I had with a naturopathic healer, and I was about half-way there when I spotted a small black shape at the next intersection. As I got closer, I realized it was a Holstein calf, no more than a couple weeks old. I could see it violently shivering so I stopped the car, went to him, and wrapped my arms around him. I noticed a piece of twine around his neck, and I guessed that he fell off a truck as he was being taken to an auction house. He was probably being taken there to be auctioned off for meat. Male cattle often are killed in our dairy land state since most males aren’t needed for insemination purposes. I decided that wasn’t going to happen to this guy.
A few minutes later a car stopped, and two guys got out. They asked me what I was doing and if they could help. One man even volunteered to go to the auction house to see if anyone would claim the beast. He did go there, but there were no takers. “Well, lady, now what are you going to do?” one of the men asked me. I told them to put him in the back seat of my car. And they did. He sat there motionless, right in the middle of the seat. So, I drove him to my appointment, had a 30-minute therapy session, and came back out. He hadn’t moved a muscle.
Now it was time to head home. On the way I stopped at a farm supply store and bought a gallon-size milk bottle and several gallons of milk.
When I got home, I didn’t know what to do with the little guy, but I knew I had to keep him warm. Fortunately, our attached garage was mostly empty. In he went, willingly; I offered him the bottle and he drank down a whole gallon of milk in about two minutes. I’d say he hadn’t eaten for quite some time. Then I took the phonograph downstairs and played classical music to sooth him (and, later, to stimulate his brain).
After that I decided I better call Ron. He was at work, but I got through to him right away. He asked how I was, and I told him I was fine but there was something he should know. “There’s a cow in our garage,” I said. There was a pause at the other end, and then Ron asked one question: “Honey, how did that happen?” When I told him what had occurred, he made no objection, except to tell me not to name him because once you name an animal you become responsible for it. “Too late,” I told Ron, “His name is Blackberry.”
Well, Blackberry was warm now, too warm to just put outside. We kept him in the garage all winter, bottle feeding him as he grew bigger and bigger. That spring Ron hired two of our Scandinavian neighbors, Chip and Orlen, to put up fences around our property. We own about seven acres. Blackberry resided in 3 of them, with plenty of grass. We also turned our shed into a shelter and Ron had Blackberry castrated after we were warned that male bulls were far too dangerous for us to handle.
Blackberry became a good friend. The only problem was he was becoming huge. Our neighbor farmers warned Ron to be careful. Not that Blackberry would want to harm him but because Ron could get crushed by accident. Finally, not entirely with my approval, Blackberry was taken to our neighbor Jeff’s feedlot, where he lived many years as the Big Boss of the heifers. Some days he would even walk through a creek bed to visit us. One time he brought along a heifer, so I called Jeff to tell him Blackberry and his girlfriend were having an overnight with us.
One spring the farmer came to me and apologetically told me that Blackberry had slipped on an icy path and rolled down a hill. He was now lying beside a bush. He told me that Blackberry would surely die there because an animal his size would never be able to stand up in that situation. I ran to him and once again I wrapped my arms around Blackberry and this time I sang to him. After ½ hour I told him it was time to get up – and he did. The farmer and his men were amazed; their mouths opened in astonishment. They helped me lead Blackberry back to a safe area.
Blackberry grew to over 3,000 pounds. He lived 17 1/2 years, not bad for a doomed two-week old calf. I loved Blackberry. I still do.
Ron's comments on The Story of Blackberry the Steer: How Pat Saved a Life and Gained a Large Friend
This is a true story. I think Pat was about 50 years old at the time, just recovering from her heart attack. I thought this would be a good time to share it with you, since several of the recent chapters of our blog have been disheartening as pat's health has plummeted. I needed a reminder that Pat has led a rich and interesting life full of love and generosity. And she is still adventuring, albeit in the strange Lewy Body universe.