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  • I don’ eat cows, haven’t since I was a kid. These are my neighbors who know about my eating habits and politics—a father and son who help me out with research, answer my questions anyway. We’re friends. They also pasture part of their herd on our property every August, because our pond stays filled and cows need water. I like the way the cattle look dotting up the acreage, and every morning the kids and I play, “find the bull.” Last year my neighbors invited me to preg-check their cows and heifers. The vet was kind and helpful, told me what to feel for, and these guys laughed and took pictures of me with my arm up a cow’s rear trying to feel for what they call “buttons,” which are the first little swellings of indication that a cow has taken. If she hasn’t, of course, the penalty is death by slaughterhouse, and no one likes this. As business people, my neighbors are used to the idea of not being pregnant registering as liability, but still there’s a second of heartache when the vet with orange grease pencil draws a big O for “open” on the girl’s flank and the animal gets shooed to the pen for those who failed to conceive. While a cow or heifer is in the chute getting checked, the ranchers look at their hooves and horns, and make sure their ear hair isn’t covering their tag number, clip it back with Dollar Store scissors if it is. Here Tommy has a saw. The cow’s horn is crooked, and if it wasn’t sawed off would grow into the front of her head and kill her. “I’ve seen it happen,” he told me.
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