It felt like the end of an era on Saturday as Jason and I said goodbye to Buster. Buster was the most "famous" of my dad's little herd of pet cows. Many cows came and went over the years but Buster always stayed.
Buster's mother was Beulah who was the matriarch of my dad's cow herd. My dad purchased Beulah very late in the year in 1994. He was told she was open when he bought her, however she gave birth to Buster a few very short months later in 1995. Beulah either had the shortest gestational period ever for a cow or she was pregnant at the time of her purchase. I would say Beulah's pregnancy was an "oops" pregnancy since Buster was the resulting calf. One only had to glance at Buster to realize that he was not the offspring of an Angus bull.
Buster was most definitely not an Angus cow
Buster napping with his sister Annie to the left and his mom Beulah behind him
From the moment Buster made his unexpected appearance in the world we all thought he was simply the cutest calf we had ever seen. My mom named him Buster and he instantly became the first of the pet cows at Windy Hills Farm. Jason's comment about Buster's passing was "Back when we were in the freezer beef business we got Buster a new group of friends every spring and their numbers slowly dwindled throughout the summer and fall. But Buster always got to stay. I always joked with him that he was among the saved. The first thing I saw when I entered the big white mansion my future in-laws lived in were framed, painted portraits of both daughters on each side of the fireplace....and a framed painted portrait of Buster on the left side of the vestibule! It's still there today! No kidding!!!!"
I think that pretty much sum's up Buster's status within our family. Portraits of the daughters by the fireplace while Buster's portrait had the place of supreme honor in the entry hall.
Buster pretty much led the perfect life from start to finish
Buster hanging with the other pet cows; this gives you an idea of how big he was.
my mom always loved what she referred to as buster's "plumey tail" and she especially liked the fact that he always kept it very clean and white
Our cute little calf grew into an 18+ hand steer weighing in at over 3,000 pounds. Buster learned quickly to associate people with food, and whenever my dad was driving through Buster's pasture on his gator Buster would trot along behind him. When he would spy my dad on the gator Buster would literally go running (as best as 18 hand, 3000 pound animal can run) across the pasture to catch up to the gator. The ground would literally shake as he would go pounding across it. Buster considered it his self-appointed job to instill manners into the new crop of calves that came along each year. He liked for things to be orderly and mannerly, and since he was always the biggest cow around by a significant amount he got his way.
Buster mingling with the "common cows" and keeping things orderly
Buster and the other pet cows enjoying a leisurely afternoon along my parents' driveway
Buster had been moving slower and slower the last couple of years, and in the last few months a slow walk was his top speed. When you are 19 years old and huge it isn't really a surprise that your mobility would begin to slow down. He had really slowed down the last few weeks and we had been checking him constantly to make sure he was comfortable as he was beginning to have trouble getting up and down. On Saturday he was laying down by the pond and although he seemed peaceful enough he would not make any effort to rise. We kept attempting to make him get up but he would not even try.
napping with the pet cows; sadly only three of them are still with us
it was always a good day to be Buster
Jason and I explained to my mom that we had to say goodbye to Buster, that he'd had a great 19 year run, but it was time and it was time now. Then of course there were the logistics of actually helping Buster to become permanently pain free and young again. So many people are scared of guns and don't realize that there is a time and a place when they are needed. Despite the fact that Buster was a pet and very used to people, it would have been negligent at best for someone to try and euthanize Buster via injection. One whack with his massive head should he whip it around if he got stressed could kill a person.
Then I did something I never, ever thought I would do and I told Jason I would pull the trigger myself. After all he was my family's pet and our responsibility. Since my dad's passing Jason has dealt with more than his fair share of things that would normally have been handled by my father. As I said to Jason at some point we've got to step up to the plate and handle things. We then proceeded to have an argument about who would actually handle the rifle and admittedly I very half heartedly argued that I should do it. However when Jason insisted I let him "win" and was happy to dump this task back in his lap.
We drove our Kubota back to the pond and we both sat in silence for a minute looking at Buster. We tried one last time to get him to rise but again Buster would not even try. Then Jason loaded the rifle, walked over to Buster, told him he was sorry and that he didn't want do this, and one well placed bullet led to an instant passing. I've never been more grateful to Jason than in that moment when I didn't have to pull the trigger myself. It was actually a very graceful passing. Jason did not hesitate or falter and Buster seemed not only to know what Jason was going to do but to welcome it.
We are planning to move the last of the pet cows to our farm in the next few months. Jason felt it was fitting, and I sadly agree, that Buster will not make the move. He had spent every day of his 19 years at Windy Hills Farm and it was the only home he had ever known. As we prepare to sell the farm it feels like we are closing the pages of a book. Buster's passing certainly feels like one of the final chapters of the stories of Windy Hills Farm. Rest in peace Buster.