Farming in the Boy and the One Who Owns The Cattle

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Farming. You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. I’ve seen that in my man.

Dave would like nothing better than to be baling hay all day and helping calves and lambs take their first steps into the world. For a few years, he got his dream of farming. He managed two different cattle farms with hundreds of cattle and acres on which to make hay. We liked farming and farm life and thought maybe we’d be doing that forever.

Then things happened and the farming opportunity was over. Even though he was offered several positions on other farms in the state, we knew they weren’t for him because of the location and because of our growing family. So we moved, and Dave gave up farming and started doing construction.

The man grew up on a farm and worked in his father’s construction business. The farm was a side project and construction kept the family clothed and fed. He was the second of eight, and whenever the choice was given to work with Pop on construction for a day or stay home and work the farm, he chose the farm. Always. Little wonder then that he missed farming – and still does. Yet he’s content with the occupation he has. It isn’t without frustration, I know.

“I used to head to work every day and ask God to give me a heart for construction or to let me go back to farming. I knew if I was going to be doing this to provide for my family, I needed to be able to enjoy it,” he says.

You know what? In time, Dave grew to love construction and the flexibility that being self-employed gave him. When our kids had special events at school or I needed help with doctors visits with foster kids, he could take off work without any worries.

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So from time to time, we’ve kept cattle on the few open acres we own.  For years, our kids showed in the Halifax County Junior Livestock Show where they learned valuable lessons about dependability, responsibility, and caring for their animals. This gave Dave the opportunity to enjoy having cattle here as well as having a fun family project. To read about halter-breaking heifers, you can go here. 

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Tim, his first heifer and his sponsor, the late Dr. Ward, who delivered our son and saved his life.

A few years back we sold Roscoe, the 2300-lb. bull and got rid of the cattle. Then last fall Dave chose some new heifers to start raising cattle again. He also purchased Duke, who promised to be a good sire for never-before-bred heifers.

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Duke checks out his newborn while Mama watches.

The farmer who sold the bull promised to keep him until Dave was ready to have him added to the pasture with the heifers. All was well until the day Dave decided to move the electric fence further back to give the heifers more grass. He dropped the fence and walked to the end of the pasture to unhook the other end of the fence, expecting the heifers to forage right there among the fresh, new grass. Five minutes later he was back and discovered that the heifers had disappeared.

Dave followed their hoof prints to the edge of the woods where they vanished –  just like the cattle. So he walked through our woods, then through our neighbor’s, then onto the next farm, searching for signs, and found nothing. How could six heifers disappear so quickly and so completely?!

Those heifers had headed to the woods – only this time, I wasn’t the one to blame! (You can read about that here.)

For three days, he walked the neighboring pastures, drove miles along all the neighboring farms, talked to farm owners and property owners. No one had seen those heifers. Dave walked miles those days but it was in vain.

Finally, we printed up flyers about the missing heifers and left our contact number at the country store just across the road. We handed out flyers to neighbors while our sons and cousins came and helped walked the same places Dave had walked.

Then we went out of town. I wondered at my man this time. I wondered how he could just leave and not be worried about one of them getting out on the road and causing an accident. I wondered if we were crazy to leave town with six heifers missing.

“This is a lesson in how not to worry,” Dave told me. “God knows where those cattle are, and since He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He can take care of them. They’re not my heifers. They are His. Besides, since there are six of them, it’s not likely they will start wandering the roads. They’re probably holed up somewhere with some other cattle. Worrying isn’t going to bring them back.”

After he had done all that he could do (which included a lot of praying), he left it with the One Who really does own the cattle on a thousand hills – including six heifers lost somewhere in the Cluster Springs area of Halifax County.

And I wondered why these fool-hardy heifers had to disappear just when it seemed Dave was going to get his chance to farm as a hobby again. If we lost those heifers, there would be no way we’d be able to buy any others.

We left Sunday afternoon and returned Tuesday evening.

Dave felt compelled to go check a farm where he’d seen a bunch of cattle the week before. Sure enough, there they were – all six of them. The farm owner doesn’t live there and the renters didn’t notice the extra cattle.

Twenty-four hours later, the heifers were back home. This spring, five of the six produced healthy calves. The barren one is named Hannah. We sit on the deck in the evenings watching the calves play and frolic in the pasture. Then we remember how nearly it might not have been, and how blessed we are that the lost were returned. We remember that it wasn’t worrying that brought them home. And we remember how easy it is to forget what might have been – and how often we fail to give thanks.

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Photo credit: Rebekah Slabach

The dream of farming was lost for many years; now, even though we’re not truly farming, we have enough to enjoy and to be at peace and at rest.

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