I once named all of our cattle. It was fun but apparently I was too lazy to continue this tradition as our numbers gradually increased. I want to talk about one little steer whose personality stuck out enough to attach a name. I want to talk about Burley.
First off, I was still too lazy to name Burley. My brother, Steve, gave him the moniker when he was young. I didn’t realize the tag had been given him and considered naming him “Teddy Bear.” I felt that was a name that he would labor under all his life and decided against it. Steve later told me they had already given him a name which fit him just right.
Burley is the last to do everything. When I shift the cattle from one paddock to another, he is consistently the caboose. He has those disheveled, boyish good looks of the kid that is always late to class but never gets reprimanded.
The first time I noticed Burley was when he was sitting by himself next to the fence. Cattle are herd animals and a loner is sometimes sick or hurt. Burley just wanted a little time by himself and I couldn’t judge him poorly for it as I often want the same thing. I left him to his own thoughts and moved on.
Burley has a little buddy he spends time with, a calf un-named but not un-noticed. I have seen them sitting together on sunny afternoons and they seem to enjoy their shared company. Honestly, they remind me a little of Kenny Krohn and myself as kids sitting in the playground at Viking (Minnesota) Elementary and shooting the breeze. Burley has that laid-back way about him just like Kenny although he looks more like me at that age-which is indicated by his name.
I guess it’s times like these that inject some humanity into my relationship with cattle. It is not so distant a concept to believe that cattle make friends and possess each a god-given personality. I think it is important to remember that love and friendship are not something humans alone receive nor alone bestow to each other. I mean isn’t spending time together one of the most tangible acts of love and friendship?
Anyway, Burley is a steer and wouldn’t exist except for the fact he will eventually taste good. Cattle would not be a good fit as pets and so wouldn’t exist without this final purpose. However, a little guy like Burley is constant reminder to consider one’s own humanity in dealing with all creatures with which we share space.
Finally, I have included a picture of Burley with this column. He is not tame however he is patient and relaxed so the picture was easy to acquire. I believe if I’d wanted too I would have been able to dress this calm steer in one of those silly pet costumes people wrap their cats in for pictures. Anyway, I can’t imagine Burley as an elf, angel or super hero. He is best as just Burley.