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Another mooooving adventure

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Posted: December 11, 2006 8:42 a.m.
Updated: December 26, 2006 5:00 a.m.
    The old saying is, history repeats itself. This time, however, it was with a cow instead of a pony.
    A calf, really. A five-day-old Holstein bull calf, to be exact. And the vehicle involved wasn’t a Ford Mustang, it was a Ford Escort. And the friend who bought the animal wasn’t Karen, but Nancy.
    Let me explain, if I can. I and many of my friends are the kind of people who often find ourselves involved in unusual adventures.
    About 12 years ago, I went barrel-horse shopping with my friend Karen. She rescued a pony instead - a shaggy, pitiful pony mare tied out with a rope around her neck in the summer heat.
    The pony rode home in the back seat of Karen’s Mustang, with Karen keeping her company and me driving. Between Karen’s black eye, the meadow muffins in the floorboard, the pony hair everywhere and the odd looks from people at the traffic lights, we got her home.
    Saturday, I experienced a bit of deja vu when my friend Nancy and I went to a livestock sale in Swainsboro.
    It was our first time there, and I brought along an assortment of used tack (horse equipment) to sell. We thought there might be ponies and horses for sale, but this time it was only cows, goats and poultry.
    Still, we enjoy the sales, and Nancy thought she might find an orphaned goat kid to raise by bottle. Her last bottle baby, Valentino, was such a great pet - a goat everyone loved - but he met his demise while visiting a temporary home, to our distress.
    Huddled under my poncho, I was reasonably comfortable on the hard wooden bleacher, thankful for the heater blasting warmth into the small sale area. Watching the goats enter the sale ring is always fun, because goats are so funny. Nancy didn’t find her bottle baby, though.
    Being as we didn’t expect to buy anything larger than a baby goat, we made the trip in her car. Pulling a trailer, even if empty, costs lots of gas. Ford Escorts don’t.
    As the last of the goats ran out of the ring, we waited for the cows to come in. My tack would sell afterwards, so we had reason to stay, but we didn’t mind. Cattle are interesting too, although not as funny as the goats.
    Some of the cattle weren’t funny at all. There is nothing humorous in seeing a weak, sickly calf stumble into the sale ring, looking forlorn and confused, wondering where its mother is and why it was there.
    Local dairies have a need for the heifer calves born to their brood cows; they become milk producers. However, only one or two bulls are needed to impregnate the cows, so baby bull calves are superfluous. They get sent to sales lots, even at such tender ages as a few days old.
    The practice is barbaric and I don’t like it. I am not sure what happens to the calves, because I am sure there are more unwanted bull calves than people willing to raise them by bottle-feeding. But at least one of the calves went home that night to a warm barn and plenty to eat.
    There were a few brown Guernsey calves and a couple black ones. The rest were Holsteins - the well-known black and white spotted cattle that are most popular for milking.
    The calves were going for incredibly low prices, and before I knew it, Nancy got that look.
    She waited patiently for the calf that had caught her eye - a relatively healthy little bugger, young enough to still have the umbilical cord attached. He didn’t stumble and his large brown eyes were bright, and he went for a song.
    Now, how would we get him home?
    The only other person we knew there who lived in Statesboro had driven a truck with no sides on the bed. It would be an unsafe and cold ride for the baby bull, so that was out. We could have returned with a trailer, but it would waste time, and he needed to get home and be fed.
    For Nancy and I, there was only one solution, which  meant I wasn’t going shopping at Swainsboro Wal-Mart after the sale.
    The calf fit rather comfortably in the rear of her station wagon, and never made a moo. We stopped for a bag of milk replacement powder and headed home.
    The looks we got as we stopped at a store and at red lights were priceless. The calf batted long eyelashes at people driving behind us, and we saw them laughing and gawking through our rear-view mirrors.
    Fortunately, he didn’t make a mess on the way home, and after we got him settled in the hay in the barn, belly full of a large bottle of milk replacement, the little calf was content.
    He adapted to humans quickly, leaning into my hand as I scratched his neck and butting those who tried to feed him, as he would have butted the mama he’ll never know.
    Chalk one more up to being rescued. Hopefully he’ll always be somebody’s pet.
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