Old Number Nine

I grew up north of Big Springs, Nebraska, where my dad farmed and raised registered Angus cattle. He started with 80 registered heifers and from that developed a pretty nice bunch of cows.

One of the original cows that I remember specifically was old #9. Some of the registered cows we owned in the early years wore metal chains with brass numbers on them.  One of those, known as old #9, gained the notorious reputation of being the meanest cow in the herd. When anyone walked through the herd, they quickly learned that they needed to be looking over their shoulder to make sure she hadn’t decided to come and greet them.

She was fast and ornery - never needing a reason to take you. If you invaded her space, (which was whatever she determined it to be in the moment) you became fair game and a moving target to aim at.

You know, the chain and brass number hanging around a cow’s neck has a slightly different tingling sound at a walk, verses its sound at breakneck speed when a killer cow is chasing you. Just in case you didn’t hear the jingling sound, there was always the background music of a mad beller that quickly followed the jingle.

Each year during calving season it was always an extra special event to ear tag her calf. Most Angus cows are pretty good mommas, and aggressively protective their newborn.

#9 was a momma with both her Masters and Doctorate Degree in the protective momma cow department. Watching dad tag her calf and hold her at bay with a scoop shovel was pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, I was too young to be in the middle of all that.... Thank God!

One year we had Doc H., the local veterinarian help us vaccinate the cow herd. Doc was a unique character in his own right. If I recall correctly, he used to play college football back in the day when they didn’t have faceguards. He was burly and loud, with eye glasses as thick as pop bottles. He had one particularly unusual little quirk; eating ketchup on his apple pie and ice cream.

He also had a bit of an ornery streak in him. It was common for him to attempt to startle an unsuspecting customer at the local restaurant by waiting until they were taking a bite of food, (usually something that was kind of messy, like a sunny side up egg) and then letting loose with a loud war whoop. More than once he successfully caused what was intended for someone’s mouth to end up in their lap.  He would just wait for the right moment, and then suddenly attempt to get you. In that way, he reminded me of old #9. Other than that he was a pretty good fellow.

I recall one particular day that Doc was helping vaccinate, when he actually got back some of his own medicine - literally. As he reached over the alley to vaccinate a cow, he found one unwilling recipient in old #9. As she let out a beller and tossed her head, she hit Doc’s syringe hand. This initiated a change in direction of the intended target, redirecting the needle to Doc’s other hand - promptly inoculating him.  Doc let out a beller of his own, and this time it wasn’t in an attempt to get someone to dribble egg yoke down their shirt.  I’m not sure what kind of side effects he had to deal with, but I’m pretty sure he never contracted Leptospirosis.

#9 and Doc are long gone, but they are both unique characters that are etched into my life history. More than 40 years after the fact, there remains a memorable aroma of their special quirkiness that causes me to grin, and to appreciate the fingerprints of a divine Creator that shaped them to be unique, yet genuine. The tendencies of their individual dispositions just seems to mark them as extra  special. Besides all that, one was a good momma, and the other was a pretty good fellow. The two of them together portray an entertaining piece of artwork made up of colorful characteristics and genuine goodness, evident in God's creative handiwork.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)  But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.