He Was a Gentle One

IMG_4118Yesterday’s rain was long and steady, rolling through in waves of varying intensity, rarely relenting in full, and even then only for minutes at a time, as if merely resting. Early in the morning I haltered Otto, our two-year-old steer, and then stood with him by the paddock gate to keep him calm, the rain falling atop us both, my jacket soon soaked through, Otto’s russet coat wetted two shades darker. The boys brought me a plate of eggs to eat while I waited, then retreated quick to the shelter of the house. I balanced the plate atop a fence post and ate with my halterless hand, and soon after I finished eating our neighbor Dave arrived and placed a perfect shot, and the work began.

I liked that boy, Otto. He was a gentle one.

Killing Otto yesterday reminded me of this post, from a couple of years back. It’s one of those rare pieces I wouldn’t do any differently now. Man. I sure wish I could write more of those.


The ever-lovin’ Sheesham & Lotus & Son

Son Volt’s Windfall (thanks, Heather!)



22 thoughts on “He Was a Gentle One”

  1. First paragraph is of the finest writing. The egg sequence is super super fine as it is followed by such remarkable surprise and irony..

    I wish you had stopped,with that lone paragraph.

  2. About what did Otto weigh? How long have you been processing your own beef? Forgive me if I’m remembering incorrectly, but I thought I read recently (like in the last year, not that recent) that you guys did not process your own beef. I am just wondering about the transition to such a big animal. Slaughtering a chicken is still intimidating to me… I had better get over that…

    1. Not sure on live weight, but he dressed at 480, a little smaller than usual for us. We’re usually in the 550 to 600-pound range.

      We don’t process our own beef. I’ve killed a few of them, but the actually processing we hire out, and usually the slaughter, too.

      Pigs are a good transition animal. Especially small ones… we’ve done pigs that were as big as a small beef.


  3. Having ‘processed’ 22 chickens on Sunday this was dead on. I hope I never get fully used to it.

  4. Our neighbors had a dairy steer. We’d see it grazing their front yard. I’d say “Marty, there’s Meat!” I called the steer Meat. Pretty soon we didn’t see Meat anymore. We never did find out what happened to him.

  5. I agree with your distinction between harvesting/processing and killing. Might I add one distinction that I use when deciding which word appropriate. I believe those who have no connection to the animal other than as a job to do should use the word processing showing the lack of intimacy/appreciation with life of the animal. Those who raised the animal and will consume the animal have killed (or butchered) it. Don’t know why, but this makes sense to me.

    1. It’s really interesting our relationship to animals and the eating of them. I notice that we usually have a different name for the animal after it’s killed and we are about to consume it. Cow or steer is “beef”. Chicken or hen is “poultry”. Pig is “pork”. What does our use of language say about our relationship to the death of an animal? It seems to me that we want to distance ourselves from it. I’m not against that because although I eat animal bodies I do feel sorry that we have to kill them to do it. I think awareness is a good thing.

    2. I agree with your sentiment, but I have always heard the word processing used to describe the, well, process of cutting up the animal, getting it ready for the table or freezer. Not including the killing. But I’m no pro…

      1. Yes, that’s how I use it… there’s the killing, then the cutting/processing of the dressed carcass.


  6. I’ve come a long way with my thoughts on killing animals, thanks to this blog and a couple others. Hard to wake up when you don’t even know your asleep. I’m a sucker for banjos, fiddles…..and I guess tubas! :}

  7. Music suggestion (thanks for John Moreland)- Anything by the bluesy rock group Indigenous. I like “The Moon is Shining” best. Their guitarist forges his own path as a Native American Hendrix.

  8. Coming to terms with killing is still hard for me. In a week my daughter sells our first steer at auction. I hope whoever eats him appreciates work and love that went into that animal. In a couple months we’ll butcher a steer for our own freezer.  Still not sure how I’m going to handle it.

    1. Don’t get emotionally attached to livestock! Cats and dogs are pets. Cattle, chickens, hogs, and sheep aren’t. What they will eventually be is some portion of breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

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