My heart was racing as I stared down the barrel of my brother’s Winchester 30-30. If the circumstances had been different, I probably would have really enjoyed shooting that old cowboy rifle, with its handsome wood stock and well-worn lever action, but as I pulled the hammer back and tightened my grip on the handle, all I could feel was regret.
In front of me stood Rump, our 19-month-old Holstein steer, munching excitedly on a pile of corn I’d laid out for him.
As far as he was concerned, this was quite the treat. A whole pile of corn all to himself. And he didn’t even have to push the goats out of the way to get to it! A very special treat, indeed — and he wasn’t about to squander it.
He didn’t even bother to glance up from his eating as I walked up to him.
That made my task a bit easier.
But still… as I drew careful aim with the rifle, I couldn’t help but think of all those mornings and evenings mixing up bottles of milk replacer and cradling his little black-n-white head in my hands as he eagerly suckled. I couldn’t help but think of the excitement and affection he’d show as he’d suck on your fingers (or shirt… or pants.. or anything else he could get his mouth on). All those ear-scratches. All the nose-nudges.
It’s never easy to take a life — but it’s especially hard when you’ve spent so much time with the animal. You get to know its personality. Its quirks.
Definitely a tough task…
But, there’s no use dragging your heels about it. I always knew this day was coming. Heck, that’s why we named him “Rump” in the first place — to constantly remind ourselves that he was destined for the freezer.
It’s kinda funny though; with all that heavy responsibility riding on my shoulders, you’d think it’d be harder for me to physically pull the trigger — almost like the seriousness of the task would add a bit of actual weight and resistance to the firing mechanism. But that definitely wasn’t the case. As a matter of fact, I kinda surprised myself when I heard the sharp crack of the rifle.
Fortunately, my aim was true (it’s kinda hard to miss a target that’s standing 2 feet in front of you) and Rump hit the ground like a sack o’ taters.
What surprised me most, though, was how quickly my mind was able to switch gears. The moment that old steer hit the dirt, it was almost like he ceased to be Rump — and suddenly became a task. Just another butchering job. A really BIG butchering job.
Plunging my knife into his throat to bleed him out, the gutting, the skinning, the quartering… It was all just business as usual. No different from working on a really big deer or elk. One with an incredibly thick hide.
Don’t get me wrong though. There was still a feeling of regret and melancholy throughout the day. I think it’s only natural to feel that way. But fortunately, there was now a task to keep me occupied.
And when I say “occupied,” I really mean it!
I was cuttin’ on that dang ol’ thing for the better part of a week — with a lot of incredibly late nights to go along with it. (I guess that’s what you get when you try juggling a full-time job, a growing family, a smattering of farm animals, church service, and a part-time butchering gig on top of it all…) But with a lot of help from my brother, my dad, and my father-in-law (not to mention my generous neighbor lending me his front-end loader for an afternoon) we finally got it taken care of. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done without all the help.
When that final package of burger was finally wrapped, labeled, and placed in the freezer — and at last, I had a chance to sit down and catch my breath… Wow! What a great feeling! And that thick, hand-cut porterhouse I grilled up for dinner… Best steak I’ve ever eaten!
Would I do it again?
The logistics of finishing a steer on our small pasture just don’t really make sense — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the ride. Actually, if truth be told, raising and butchering a steer from start to finish has been one of the most fulfilling projects we’ve carried out, here on our little One Acre Lott.
Like I’ve said before, every day’s an adventure!