Not For Sale

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Barracuda Jeans courtesy of NordstromFour hundred twenty-five dollars.

If handed $425 right now, what would you want to spend it on? A pair of jeans? If you have watched the news or been on Facebook of late, you will most likely know of the story I am referring to. If not check out this article. Or better yet, read the blog post from Mike Rowe, host of the television show “Dirty Jobs”.

I had to laugh. As silly as it is to think of someone paying $425 for a pair of jeans that have artificially been made to look dirty and worn, it isn’t all that outlandish. Have you see what brands are charging for extremely distressed jeans? I’m certain some of these jeans have less fabric to them than a pair of Daisy Dukes. I’ll be the first to admit, I like the look of a pair of jeans with a rip or two in them. I can’t explain it, but I think on others, it looks cool. Of course, when I wear them I look silly and get tired of hearing my dad or Grandpa or uncle offer to lend me money to buy jeans that are free of holes. But these “Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans” take it to a whole new level. According to the description they “embody rugged, Americana workwear”. Hmm, I don’t know about that, but I digress.

Distressed Jeans embodying real hardworkLooking at this pair of jeans, I laugh, because it causes me to remember a picture my Grandma took of me in a pair of jeans I did a pretty good job of wearing out. It’s not the clearest picture, my Samsung phone at the time was pathetic at taking pictures, but that is a different story. And even still I don’t think the picture does my jeans justice. But the memories this picture, a particular week and those jeans bring back is all too worth sharing.

I’m going to take you back to May 2015 and give a bit of a back story, bear with me. My cousin, Taylor, qualified for the National Leadership Conference for Business Professionals of America (BPA). Proud of her, to say the least. BPA was my most favorite organization in high school and I have recommended high-schoolers participate in BPA more times than I can count. From public speaking to technology to knowledge of business, BPA prepares students far more than most organizations will do even in college. Anyhow back to that week, the national conference was in Anaheim, California.

Taking the opportunity, her family went with her and made it not only a conference but a vacation too. To cut the buildup shorter, I’ll get to it. Taylor’s dad is my Uncle Anthony. He runs all of the cattle and handles most of the day-to-day on the place. With him gone for 4 or 5 days, I volunteered weeks in advance to do the feeding and basic chores while he’d gone. Naturally, less than a week before them leaving, two of the calves born had some troubles. Before Uncle Anthony left on their trip, he worked tirelessly with those two calves each for several hours a day.

Nonetheless, I reassured him that Dad and I would be able to handle the feeding, basic chores and the care of these two special needs calves. So they left for Anaheim, and Dad and I were left to figure it out. One a bull calf, the other a heifer.

The Bully

The bull calf was a big, black and stout, but for some reason, his back his and legs weren’t giving him stability. Each time we’d help him to his feet, his back legs would get twisted up and he’d fall back down. So several times a day, he would be worked with in order to try to help his situation. Like I said he was stout, so helping him up was no easy feat, especially with his back-end not cooperating. Along with those therapy sessions of sorts, we also had to help him stand so that he could nurse. A bucket of feed to his momma would keep her mindful enough. Enough so that she would even let us grab her teats to help our little bubba out. We’d get him stood up and in the right position, letting his back-end lean up against me for support, but still making him put weight on all four legs. And he’d latch on and nurse all that he could, with great efficiency I might add. By the end of that excursion, I’d be sweating and my pants would be smeared with calf poop. If any of y’all are familiar with baby animals of any kind, you’d know that they have the most pungent aroma and the texture that smears and holds on to anything it is rubbed on. But this was the easy part of my evenings.

The Little-Shit (i.e. the heifer calf)

The heifer calf was a cutie. She was black with a motley face, one of my favorite combinations for heifer calves in particular. Small at birth, her momma had no difficulty calving. However, for some reason this little girl wasn’t born with that vivacious spirit to get up and nurse as soon as possible. Whether she didn’t get colostrum right away or had any internal defects, we didn’t know, but we worked hard to help her get going.

Before Anthony had left, he would run the cow through the chute, give her a bucket of feed, and for more than an hour would assist the heifer to nurse. The thing about her, she just wouldn’t consistently nurse well. At one feeding, she’d get right to it and latch on and nurse like she hadn’t in days. Then at the next feeding, she’d act like she hadn’t the slightest clue how to suckle. During those times, you’d have to grab a teat for her and squeeze milk into her mouth. And even still, you’d have to hold her at the right angle so that the milk would go directly to the back of her mouth and down her throat, otherwise she’d smack her mouth open and close and let it all seep out. Frustrating to say the least, and precisely how she was dubbed Little-Shit by me.

Like I said, the bull calf was the easy part of my evenings. Heading down to the little triangle to run Little-Shit’s momma through the chute was the pain-in-the-butt part of the evening. Firstly, why she wasn’t as easy-going as the other momma cow, I don’t know. Things would have been way easier if she didn’t need to be held still by the chute. But even after being put in the chute, with a bucket-full of feed in front of her, she would get to moving side to side, and you had to watch out for the occasional kick too. I understand we were touching her and pulling at her udder, but if only she would have understood, the more cooperative she would have been the quicker, in theory, the process would have gone.

Unfortunately you can’t reason with animals, at least with words. And feed wasn’t enough reasoning for her either. Little-Shit didn’t make things easier on us throughout the week. I’m fairly certain she didn’t nurse on her own during the day, and unlike her bull calf counterpart, she could stand and walk and run like any normal calf. But she continued to act like she didn’t know how to suckle or swallow. On the good mornings or evenings when she would have a bit more vigor, we’d help her latch on and assist in the suckling and she’d get to wagging her tail like she was filling up. The tail is always a pretty good indicator. And then for every good feeding, she’d have a number of not so good ones. On those occasions, she decided she’d rather us just about hold her in place. Along with holding her upright, she must have also felt entitled to us also placing the teat in her mouth. On these not so good days, Dad would be there to assist. More often than we’d like, one of us would milk out the momma (Dad was wayyyyy better at this) into a bottle and then I’d sit for another hour or so trying to get Little-Shit to get some nourishment. Things would at least have been manageable if she’d taken to the bottle. No that would have been too easy.

And after fussing with both the bull calf and Little-Shit, I found myself now covered in not only calf poop, but warm milk as well. After repeating this process twice daily for several days in a row, I was never able to figure out how to stay clean or even relatively so. I’m pretty sure Grandpa and Grandma had several good laughs at my expense throughout this process. And after it was all done, as aggravating as it was at times, I loved every minute of it. When you find yourself at the brink of tears from frustration, but choose to laugh with your dad instead, those are the moments I’ll have in my memory bank for many years to come.

We survived the days without Uncle Anthony, but we were more than glad to see him come back. The sad spoiler to this story is that both of these calves ended up not making it. The bull calf failed to improve his mobility and after two weeks of helping him, it was realized the most humane thing would be to put him down. The little heifer, affectionately called Little-Shit, gave up and passed on.

Although the outcome of this story ends less than positive, it is a reminder that this is sometimes how things work out in life. Not all in life will work out, but isn’t it more about the thoughts and interactions that come in getting to that point?

Back to those jeans supposedly valued at $425. You see, the jeans I wore in this picture, they cost me $21 from a general store connected to a gas station in Rosanky, Texas. They were your normal, un-distressed, cowgirl jeans. After 6 years of working cows, doing brush-work, climbing fences, and falling in mud in these jeans, I’m curious as to what Nordstrom would value them at?!? No matter though, they aren’t for sale. Because if you ask me, I’d rather pay my $21 and experience all that goes into naturally distressing them, than drop a few bills and get the look without all the fun!

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  1. Alyx you need to send to a farm magazine or a blue jean ad store. I think it was just great. Keep up the good work. The picture was true you. Grandma T.

  2. What a neat account of what farmers and farm kids do (and love doing!) on a daily basis. Your writing voice is great.

    Oh, and I agree about the jeans! =)

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