Life — and death — can be messy

Glenda Price

It’s spring — wind, dirt, feed wagons, skies filled with brown clouds instead of rainclouds — and new baby animals.

The new babies are cute, and it’s fun to watch them play when
they’re several days old and have sorta learned how to handle those
legs that seemed so unmanageable the first day.

One of my granddaughter’s 4-H ewes had twins a couple of weeks ago.
The babies were born with no problems, but they needed a little help
getting under way and locating the grocery store. The mama turned out
to be a good mother, even though it was her first time, so we all
mostly stayed out of the way except for administering some colostrum,
and making sure they had plenty of straw bedding and protection from
the cold.

They are frisky now, and my granddaughter is hoping they’ll be fine specimens by fair time this fall.

Birthing — like most important life events — is messy. There’s the
afterbirth, of course, and blood shows up all over the place even when
the delivery is perfectly normal.

Messes are part of all animals’ lives. There’s vaccination,
castration, earmarking, branding. When someone makes a snide comment
about all that, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, “How was it at your birth? Did
your mother not have messy afterbirth or bleeding — or pain? And
afterward, did the doctor give you any shots?”

I can see those of you who are mothers smiling about now.

The other end of life is messy as well. Our family lost a horse not
long ago. His problem was old age. He could barely get around, and he
needed special feed because his teeth were so bad. The veterinarian did
his best, but it was the old guy’s time. What happens in that case is …

In the old days deceased horses went to what was called the “glue
factory,” but now it’s been decided we can’t have that — it’s
“inhumane.” The owner (in our county) must get a permit and figure out
a way to transport the body to a certain section of the landfill.
That’s “humane?”

I, personally, would rather the horse I loved have the possibility
of giving life in another form rather than being “dumped” like a chunk
of garbage.

Speaking of giving life in another form brings me to the idea of
eating. Having seen, smelled and touched all this life and death
messiness, I’d just as soon my dinner beef steak be all the way dead —
not rare.

We attended a cattle growers meeting once where the caterer
miscounted, we were the last table to be served. Our steaks — I swear —
had maybe been waved over the grill on the way out. A veterinarian at
our table said, “Bring me some combiotic. If I give him a shot he’ll
get well.”

The table had little candles for decoration, so we all took turns cooking our steaks, a bite at a time, over the candle flames.

It was good, but messy.

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: