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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 30 page 15

fiction

cattle grazing, bull approaching

Hyde & Sons

by Liz Betz

The calls-himself-a-cowboy stranger draped over your corral is hanging on to the photocopied list of birthdates and weights like it’s a bible. When he asks you what shape the bull was when he was born, you get that he’s nervous about the 110-pound birth weight. The right answer is that the bull was long and slender like a train or a snake. That’s what you say even though for the life of you, you can’t remember but it wasn’t a C-section, that much for sure. But you think just for a moment that you should have shaved some weight off the report because the dam is a long-carrying cow, always calving past her due date, and what else is the calf going to do but be bigger than average? The record is the truth but it’s not the whole truth.

The bull, you’d like to remind him, is only half the story. What kind of cows does this joker have anyway? Is he culling for difficult births or is every cow named Molly and his wife and kids or maybe from the look of him grandkids crying if he even talks of sending some of them to market? When it comes to calving difficulties, he’s got some part in it. Like does he keep his cows in working shape? Rolling fat? Ribcage thin? But you don’t say that, you remember to keep your nose out of it and besides 99% of the guys that roll in to look at the bullpen are going to tell you how to raise cattle ’cuz they’re going to tell you how they raise cattle and you’re going to agree to make them think that their way is special and they’re pretty damn clever to have figured it out. Then once he’s agreed that he’s raising superior cattle and you know it, then he’s going to consider giving you the opportunity of your bull being in his pasture breeding his cows. Jesus. You say but under your breath. He has a certain hard scrubbed look about him that could mean he’s got his standards.

You point out how well that bull he’s falling for can walk. You mention smoothness of gait and how his back-hoof lands right in the print of the front foot, and when he looks puzzled you keep on talking like it’s real natural to conclude from that how this bull’s got functional and long-lasting structure. It’s something that you picked up from one of those Simmental breeder magazines.

If he wants to take a look at the dam now, you’ve got to figure out how to drive straight to her, ’cuz it don’t look good how there’s a couple bad-hooved cows out there and your herd sire has got those sand cracks and is limping a bit. You’ve already got how he’s big on good feet from some of the questions he’s been asking. The logical thing would be to take him for a tour, but if you don’t mention the possibility of seeing the dam then it might not come up.

But then you notice your dad is coming down into the barnyard, and you know he’s just trying to fill his day but he actually does have an interest in what goes on here because these were his cows to start with, although the last cow that he ever raised is long gone. The sign out on the road still says Hyde & Sons Simmentals, and God forbid that you get to change it to that fancy name your wife come up with although what does it matter since she left anyway?

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