Life with a veterinarian is always full of surprises. One of those was Red, a newborn heifer.
One of Charles’s farmer clients asked him who might want a sterile heifer. Her mama had birthed a male to weeks before this twin was born. In this case, a female twin born with a male, it was believed that the female would never breed. In addition to her unfortunate birth circumstances, Red, as we appropriately named her, was a runt. The farmer who was proud of his shorthorn herd, didn’t want this one sullying his reputation. More importantly, he wanted the male twin to have every bit of his mama’s nourishment.
When the farmer asked who might like to have the runty sterile heifer, Charles said he would take her. I think she may have been the first of a long line of animal gifts we received.
We raised her as a pet. At the time we didn’t own the pasture behind our house. Red, the small heifer, occupied a makeshift pen in our backyard. William, about five then, learned how to give her her bottle. She was an eager eater which, of course, made her grow fast. Even a runty heifer when grown is a cow.
It happened that by the time Red outgrew her pen we had been able to buy the adjoining pasture and barn so Red had plenty of room to frisk about. As she matured Charles began to wonder if she was indeed sterile. Never one to accept undocumented facts as truth, he decided to do an artificial insemination on her and just see. By and by it became obvious that Red was not sterile.
She was still a small heifer. She was still a red shorthorn, though actually she had no horns so was a polled shorthorn. And Red was definitely still our pet as much as our dogs in the yard and our cats in the house. She came to the fence when she saw any of us exit the back door, especially if it were Charles. She’d let us pet her and would follow us around like an overgrown dog as we picked up pecans. I was never afraid of her but I did get nervous when I was in a vulnerable pecan-picking position and she came up behind me. She never pushed me over, though she did nibble at my shirttail a time or two much to William’s delight.
Charles very seldom got sick. But that February he had a lingering case of the flu and was at home in the bed for several days. One of those days, a gloomy cold rainy day, I heard Red let out an unusually distressful bawl. When I looked toward the pasture and saw her at the fence looking mighty uncomfortable I knew. This was her time. Well, she’d better be able to take care of this herself because her veterinarian was in the bed.
Time went by and Red was still in trouble. She walked back and forth, bawling and stopping often to look at me with an expression that said, “Why don’t you do something?” All I could do was talk to her and assure her over and over that it would soon be over. I could see feet presenting. I’d watched Charles deliver calves many times but I knew I couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t soon over. Poor Red was still in labor. Finally, as you would suspect, Charles went out in the winter weather to check on his heifer. With his help, Red at last gave birth to a healthy male calf. “Doubled our herd,” Charles said with a grin.
William was overjoyed. Another baby to bottle feed! But no–this baby had a very good mama who would feed him and care for him.
Red was thought to be sterile and useless, a runt of bovine flesh. But Charles wasn’t convinced that she was no good. She became a favorite pet at our house and birthed two calves. She may have been no good commercially. But to us she was a treasure.
As I reflect on Red on this another cold gloomy winter day, I’m reminded of how God treasures each of his creations and gives us life though we in no way deserve it. Ephesians 2:4-5 says: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.