The Little Longhorn Herd
When my husband (Dean) was living, he had two loves: Boy and his longhorns. He got his first two bulls from a friend who maintains a herd of them here and one in Tennessee. He’s the same eccentric, mountain-man friend of the Muffler Morgue post. The two babies, whom Dean christened “Tom and Jerry”, were sickly little critters. Dean had them delivered to our vet, Tom Moscatelli, who kept them for weeks while he nursed them back to health and turned them into steers. Longhorns are ‘good-fer-nuthin’ cattle who are kept nostalgically to look at, I suppose. Tom and Jerry were not much to look at. Dean built a corral and a fence around the back acres of our plant property for his new herd of two stringy little steers.
He fed them the best food including Bull Builder that was supposed to transform them into mighty steers. He sat for hours on his golf cart admiring them. He kept them in the corral where they would be safe. They were born in a herd at pasture and never approached by humans so they were a bit skittish. Never mind. He adored them and devoted considerable time toward their taming. At that point in Dean’s career, Kelli and Jeremy had assumed the lion’s share of running the business leaving Dean the luxury to do as he pleased, and he did. The steers were an integral part of that plan.
Each had his own feed bucket. Sometimes they agreed to eat together.
Sometimes they argued about whose food looked better, and ended up squeezing their heads into the same bucket to eat.
Tom was more reserved than Jerry. When the boys saw Dean drive into the pasture in his golf cart, Jerry always came running to drink iced tea from the big cup that he knew Dean kept in a cup holder on the cart. Dean said that Jerry would have climbed into the cart with him if he had been small enough to fit. One day when I drove the cart into the pasture, a young Jerry came to investigate. When he discovered that I had no iced tea, he lost interest and ambled away.
Tom and Jerry grew into big, healthy steers. But, Tom got his horns trapped in a round hay rack and in his struggle to free himself, he slid into the pond and drowned one weekend when nobody was at the plant to help him. It was a sad time. Nobody imagined that a commonly used hay rack could be a death trap. Round bales of hay are a pretty, benign-looking sight in fields all over Texas. These old bales sit abandoned near the corral.
When Tom and Jerry were older, Dean turned them out of the corral to eat grass and live like longhorns. Two more babies arrived from their old herd. Prissy Missy (left) and Fat Butt (right). Fat Butt was not his original name, but when he grew into a gigantic bull with a huge set of horns and big, muscular haunches, Kelli renamed him. Tom and Jerry were relegated to supervisory roles outside the corral.
Prissy Missy was calm and sweet from the beginning. Fat Butt was just full of himself. Here he is putting on his big-boy act for effect. If anybody had said “boo”, he would have high-tailed it out of there. His was a convincing act, however, and won him a reputation as the bad boy of the little herd. He seemed to know that he would be the sire of many sons if he established his dominance early on.
Eventually, Dean turned the new babies out to pasture with Tom and Jerry to learn how to be longhorns. In this photo (taken by my son-in-law) Tom and Jerry, who were still young steers themselves, were mentoring little Fat Butt. I don’t have a photograph of Fat Butt as a full-grown bull. He was a handsome fellow, and he was protective of the ladies in his own herd. A rivalry arose between him and a Black Angus bull from the adjoining pasture. Black Angus bulls are notorious agitators, and Fat Butt was itching for a fight. Eventually, he’d had enough of the interloper, and simply broke through the fence and whipped up on the Black Angus something awful. After three days of persuasion, the guys were able to corral him and load him in the trailer for the livestock sale. I was sorry to see him leave us. He was just too big and too rowdy for us to manage, and Dean was no longer there to intervene on his behalf. I hoped he would have many ladies to court and many handsome sons in his new herd.
Prissy Missy grew into a sweet mama. To date, she’s had three or four babies. This is her latest offspring. She looks a little tired and a bit thin. Babies are notoriously greedy little critters for their milk. One day, she will stop feeding this baby. For now, he is glued to her side wherever she goes.
Tinkerbell and her young son, Hershey Kisses, and another youngster, whose name I don’t know, came up from the pasture to see if anybody had brought sweet feed. They didn’t join in, but they stayed at a distance watching. Tinkerbell is the daughter of Fat Butt and Prissy Missy. I never knew her, but I remember that her birth was cause for celebration since she was Prissy Missy’s first baby. Prissy was very young and there was some concern about her welfare, but she fared just fine and was a good mother from the start. I suspect that the Interloper sired Hershey Kisses (on Tinkerbell’s right).
Dean would be happy to know that Jerry is still here watching over the herd. He is a steer so none of the babies are his offspring. I suppose he is the patriarch of the family, however, since he can claim original longhorn status. On this day, he was happy to accommodate my camera as he chewed on his hay and watched Jeremy and Boy shoot targets beside him. He’s accustomed to noise as are all of the longhorns. A train roared along the track beside the pasture, and the boys were shooting a rifle. The little herd seemed oblivious to the commotion.
As I left the pasture, I looked back to find that a somber Jerry had followed me part of the way to my car. He was staring at me as if to say, “I remember you, but where is Deano and his golf cart?”. Or, more likely, he hoped I’d return with sweet feed. Prissy Missy was still standing with the herd watching me as I left. I don’t visit the longhorns often, but I have fond memories of these first members of the little family.