Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Rest of the Story

It has been exactly one year since our pet cow Buster passed. I'm not usually much of one for specifically remembering certain dates, heck sometimes I have to take a moment to remember exactly when my own birthday is. But for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on, Buster's passing has been much on my mind the last few days. A couple of days ago I told Jason that I had been thinking about Buster a lot and that I though it had been right at a year since his passing. He thought I was a few weeks early but I looked it up and it was exactly one year ago so I was strangely accurate in my musings. 

Buster was the World's Most Awesome Pet Cow. He was born at my parents' Windy Hills Farm and lived out his entire 19 years there. My mom named him Buster the day he was born, and somehow from his first day it was simply understood that Buster was going to become the first official Pet Cow at Windy Hills Farm. No one in our family ever looked at each other and said "hey, let's keep this one." It was simply understood that that was how it was going to be. So Buster stayed for 19 years and grew into an 18+ hand, 3,000 pound pet steer. 


Buster was always very friendly and pet-like, and seemed to understand that he was never going anywhere. When we would sort and load cattle Buster would calmly mill around with the "unsaved" cows and was never nervous about the trailer. He clearly knew he wasn't going anywhere. He would go in the loading chute with the other cows, and one time he even quietly walked on the trailer and stood there for a moment. He was so tall he had to duck his head to get on the stock trailer, and after standing with his head down (so he wouldn't hit his head on the roof of the trailer) he calmly walked off the trailer and returned himself to his pasture.

This picture gives some perspective on just how big Buster was. The black cow on the right is his mom, Beulah.

Buster's passing was not unexpected last summer. He had been slowing down physically for awhile. The last few weeks he had started having trouble getting up after being down for a nap. He always managed to get up but sometimes it was a struggle. We were all keeping a close eye on him, and the day he refused to get up, as in wouldn't even try, we let him go. I wrote about some of the events of the day in his memorial post, but I left out part of the story.

After Jason and I had our little tiff about who was going to actually end Buster's life (I let Jason "win" that argument), Jason bravely stepped up and did the deed. He told Buster he was sorry and that he didn't want to do this, petted him on the head, and then pulled the trigger. It was an instant passing and a very sad moment in time for me. Buster represented everything that was right and perfect about a huge part of my life, almost 20 years of it. In the last couple of years since my Dad's passing it has been sad watching my parents' little animal kingdom, and what seemed like a whole period of our lives, fade away. Buster's passing epitomized that to me.

Buster and the other pet cows passing a leisurely afternoon

The part of the story I left out of Buster's original memorial post begins after he passed. Jason kindly did the actual deed, then we needed to move Buster's body. He left to go get the tractor and left me sitting with Buster. Buster had been laying down by the side of the pond, the side of the pond that had a steep slope down into the pond. 

I sat a few feet away from Buster thinking about life.  As I sat there reflecting on things Buster's body shuddered a little bit. That sometimes happens after things die. His body moved maybe an inch or two closer to the edge of the steep slope to the pond. 

a day in the life of Buster

I didn't think too much of it until Buster's body slid again, this time a couple of feet, and that left him half up on the ridge and half on the slope. I had a split second where I was thinking "oh my God, he's going to . . ." and I didn't get to complete the thought. Because at that moment Buster's body slid all the way down the slope into the pond complete with a big plop as his body hit the water. He was completely submerged. Talk about a bad day getting a lot worse.

I burst into tears. I couldn't believe it had happened. I hoped my mom wasn't watching from one of the upstairs windows of her house. I called my friend Wren. I don't really remember what I said except she made me feel better. Then I just stood there, crying, waiting for Jason to come back. 

Jason finally came back on the tractor, he'd had to go to the opposite end of the farm to get it. He turned the tractor off and walked up the slope to where I was standing. He didn't say anything for a long minute. He kept staring at me. Finally Jason spoke. He chose his words carefully and tried to remain neutral. He said "When I left you were just sitting here quietly next to Buster. Now you're standing here crying and there is no Buster." 

I pointed to the pond. Through my tears I said "Buster slid into the p-p-pond."  And I cried even harder.

Jason stood there for a moment, looking at the pond. The tip of one of Buster's hooves was just barely visible above the surface of the water. 

I said in my sobbing voice "you have to go in there and get him out." 

Jason walked back and forth along the edge of the pond. He was talking but I wasn't listening. He paced, back and forth, back and forth. I understand why. My dad had kept his pond extremely well stocked with catfish and a lot of them were big. My dad had also regularly aerated the pond. However that hadn't been done since my dad passed so the water was dark and murky. Jason had the unenviable task of going in dark, murky water full of carniverous catfish that he wasn't going to be able to see to get a chain around Buster. I can't blame him for pacing around talking to himself. 

Finally Jason picked up the chain, picked his way down the slope to the pond, took a deep breath to brace himself for the experience and waded in. He, of course, wasn't prepared to be wading into a pond and didn't have on rubber boots or anything practical for the circumstances we now found ourselves in. I'm pretty sure he was still talking to himself as he waded in. He put the chain around the one leg that was just barely sticking up out of the water. He hustled out of the pond, got on the tractor, and started trying to pull Buster out of the pond. 

Of course we only had the 60hp, non 4WD tractor, it had been raining, Buster was huge and the slope was steep. The chain popped off during the first try. Jason had to wade back into the murky pond full of catfish a second time and put the chain on again. I'm pretty sure Jason wanted to start crying with me at that point.

Thankfully Jason was able to fish our 18 hand, 3,000 pound cow out of the pond on the second try. I told Jason he forever had bragging rights about catching The Big One. For everyone that thinks having a farm and lots of livestock is wonderful, I'm here to tell you it is. Until you have days like that, where you have to fish your dead Pet Cow out of the pond. 

A year later Jason and I can look back on that part of the story and get some laughs out of it. I mean, you can't make this stuff up, or the truth is stranger than fiction. But we can truthfully claim that we fished a dead cow out of a pond.

And now you know the rest of the story.


Cocomo and Lofty grazing as the sun was rising

Dutch, Renny and Murphy

Taco and Nemo


Elfin and Grand

River and Rocky

Hemi and Apollo

Rip, Baby and Homer


Lori Skoog said...

That is some story. Buster was huge and loved!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I'm glad you waited to finish the story :D

SmartAlex said...

See! I knew it! There is ALWAYS a funny side to the end of a pet cow. Any cow that old (mine was 27) has built up enough character to put a wrench in the works.

raphycassens said...

Wow. I'm speechless. One day I'll tell you about what happened when we were dealing with my Dad's remains..