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Tuesday, February 18 2014

WARNING: Graphic!

A wise old man once told us that you're never bored

"as long as you have a windmill and a black bull."

His reasoning was that you always have work to do on one or the other. Our black bull is normally never any trouble, but he's been getting up in age and that brings special health problems.

We returned to the ranch in North Texas last Friday after the nasty winter storms released their grip on that country. Bully didn't make it.

 We knew it was coming. He was pretty old. He wasn't maintaining his weight. His vision wasn't good. He had started getting nosebleeds. Death has been creeping up on him. Apparently Death caught up with him during this last ice storm.

The rest of the cows are fatter than dog ticks. They survived the weather just fine. Although the cubes had run out of their feeders, they had plenty of grass in the forest. Bully didn't starve to death. I examined his body quite closely. I'll spare you the most graphic photographs, but the crime scene investigator in me had to detail Bully's death in pictures.

Although I was sad that Bully died, I was happy to know that he had not starved to death, nor had he been attacked by coyotes. There was plenty of grass in his belly, and no evidence of bite marks on his hindquarters, tail, nose or ears. It looks like he just laid down and died in the cold.

My next concern was completely selfish: the location of his death.

Bully often hung out beside the cabin. Not only did he appear to enjoy the company, we later put a feeder there to make hauling feed in sloppy weather easier. I feared Bully would die beside the cabin and I'd have hundreds of pounds of rotting bovine upwind of me.  But no, Bully died like he lived, with very little trouble to us.

He died in the forest below the pasture, far enough from the cabin that even when he began to thaw, we couldn't smell him. Good ole Bully. He was such a sweet bull. I miss him. On the other hand, he was an old bull and he lived a good life. Other Half and his rancher buddies point to Bully's death in the forest as a waste of money. He could have been taken to the sale barn months ago and we could have gotten 'something' for him before he died.

I guess so, but the idea of an old bull, confused and frightened, being prodded to his death, bothered me. I felt like Bully deserved better than that. As it was, we got two more good calf crops out of him and he got to live, and die, like a wild cow. (Not really wild because he had a feeder in addition to all that acreage, but it was a lot closer than most cows ever see to being wild.) So I was okay with Bully's death, and once he was gone, the scientist inside me wanted to study him.

First I had to study his death scene like any good crime scene investigator. I looked for some cause of death. Since I saw no signs of murder, I opted for "natural causes." I had to photograph the scene. Don't ask me why. It's just habit I guess. Finally, his death provides me with the opportunity to examine the predator/scavenger population.

WARNING! Graphic! (well, not really by my standards, but then I recognize that my standards are pretty screwed up, so I'll bow to what is considered graphic by normal people.)

We found Bully on Friday. He had just started to thaw and the flies were arriving. Most of his body cavity had already been cleaned out by critters prior to our arrival, but there was still plenty of eats available so we set up a game camera to capture shots of everything that bellied up to the Bully Buffet. (pardon my sick humor - it's something Crime Scene Investigators have in spades)

I was most disappointed in our pictures. What I expected: coyotes, raccoons, oppossums, bobcats, buzzards, and maybe a curious cougar!

What I got:

Possums   Lots of possums, or maybe just lots of visits from the same fat possum


 No feeding, just curious

   And a mangy coyote that reminded me to keep my dogs away from there! This rascal is what gives rise to tales of the "chupacabra!" (people who live outside of Texas will need to google this)

But two nights and hundreds of pictures and that was it!

Except for this visitor:

Paisley came to stand with Bully for a while. It broke my heart. I don't even like Paisley, and it still broke my heart. I had noted that Paisley was particularly aggressive with our dogs this week, and couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with watching the coyotes eat Bully.  Something to ponder . . .

And even though Paisley annoys me, I found a little spark of fondness grow in my heart for Paisley when I saw these photos.

Despite it all, I have no regrets about Bully. While I don't mind selling older calves for meat, I just didn't feel right about sending ole Bully down the road to slaughter. He'd been a good bull for us, and I suppose the best I could do for him was let him die with some dignity. We could have brought him back down to South Texas to die, but he was happier there.

So last night I pointed out to Other Half that he no longer had "a black bull and a windmill" to keep him busy. He then reminded me that he does indeed still have a black bull!  In fact, he has three black bulls! He had kept these three to watch them grow in order to decide which bull to keep as a replacement for Bully. And true to form, we were gone for four days and they flooded the pasture twice while we were gone!  They still have a fascination with water spigots.

 Bully lives on!

Vaya Con Dias, Bully

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
seems like you were generous with Bully, and he returned the respect. now his part in the circle of life is complete. thanks for sharing this reminder of the truths of living on earth.
Posted by clairesmum on 02/19/2014 - 06:36 AM
My last LGD went to the bridge in a similar way during our last heatwave. At 16+ yrs she took herself to the furthest corner of the cool hedge where we found her peacefully curled up. Now buried with the ashes of 2 more to keep her company. This winter She will have a Ginko tree on the grave.
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust) on 02/19/2014 - 03:57 PM
What a grand animal he was. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his antics. I sincerely hoped he pulled through the blindness and rejoiced when he did. I'm sorry that he is gone. The pictures don't bother me. I'm a little morbid in that way. Props to me as an IL girl for not only knowing what a chupacabra is, but how to pronounce it as well. Whoot!
Posted by Amy on 02/21/2014 - 12:34 PM
Awwww. He sounds like a good ole guy. I laughed a bit about your Paisley. Sounds like Bully's death was an occasion for all. I don't own animals that big so the logistics of their decomp process is nothing I have to deal with, but even I know enough to know that his chosen place was respectful. That is a lot of animal. What a nice tribute, photos and all.
Posted by Samantha on 02/21/2014 - 09:08 PM
Woo hoo! Amy, I'm impressed! The chupacabra is legend here in Texas, but I didn't know it ranged as far as IL! Thanks to everyone for the nice comments. Bully was a good ole bull, and I'll miss him.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 02/22/2014 - 10:12 AM

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