Clover the Cow

words by: Melissa K. Norris


Death is not something our society is very comfortable talking about. There has been a shift towards avoiding any pain or hardships in recent decades. While I don’t purposefully set out to cause myself pain (it’s human nature to protect ourselves), it is a fact of life here on earth.

Growing up on a farm, one is more aware of the cycle of life and death. At eight years old, I was the only child still at home (my older seven siblings were adults, and my two younger brothers hadn’t been born yet; for those of you who don’t know, I’m one of ten children).

Though we had a herd of one hundred and thirty cattle, my father still worked his day job as a log truck driver. When the on-site butcher came, it was my job to show them which cows and steers were being butchered. Obviously, the goal is to only butcher steers, but when using a bull (no AI), you don’t get to pick the gender. If we had a year where more females were born than males, that meant some cows would get butchered.

Because I was the only remaining kid at home, I helped my dad feed the herd every evening through fall and winter. I learned to drive a stick shift at eight, even though I could barely get the clutch all the way to the floorboard because my legs were so short. I tell you what, there’s no faster way to learn not to pop the clutch than having your dad standing on the tailgate and throwing him off.

Due to the butcher’s schedule, they could only come mid-week. Dad couldn’t afford to miss a day of hauling, so it was my responsibility to meet the butcher in the field and point out which cows were to be harvested.

Dad went through the list with me the night before, “The two-year-old-bald face steer with the red mark above his eye, the one with the horns, and the curled-hoof cow.”

We didn’t have numbered ear tags. Dad knew each cow, how many calves she’d had, and if she was a good mom or not from being with his herd. Not to mention it was an extra expense we couldn’t afford.

When the butcher showed up, I met them in the field. I pointed out each cow according to Dad’s list.

The last cow was the curled-hoof one. We waited for the butcher to gut the cows to get the tongues, hearts, and livers (those are taken at butcher time, on-site).

I gasped in horror when they processed the curled-hoof cow. She was carrying an almost full-term calf.

I’d picked the wrong cow.

There were two curled-hoofed cows in the herd. One was pregnant, and the other was not.

Hot tears burned my eyes. Sorrow gripped my chest in an iron grip.

With the advent of social media, I’ve seen many a person claim if you raise animals for meat, you’re heartless and cruel. Most of these folks haven’t a clue about what a farmer goes through.

We care deeply about our animals. We understand sacrifice. I’d dare to say we understand it at a level someone who has only bought their food from a grocery store never will.

We sacrifice under the hot days of summer when hay must be brought in. When our skin glistens not with the drops from a sprinkler or quick dip in the creek but from sweat and bits of itchy hay. In winter, we’re breaking ice, draining hoses, and feeding extra portions, multiple times a day.


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About Melissa:

Melissa K. Norris is a 5th generation homesteader who married a city boy… but that city boy quickly became a country boy and turned into a bonafide farmer when they moved to Melissa’s family property. With their two children they believe in keeping the old ways alive. She is an author, blogger, and podcaster. Learn more by visiting:


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