I’m an accountant by trade and training, but three years ago, I began one of the most extraordinary adventures in my life—farming. It would take so many more words than I want to use here to explain how much I love living on a farm. A fifteen-minute commute was one sacrifice I made; however, Monday through Friday, the forty-five-minute drive back-and-forth to my day job is now a bonus. It gives me a lot of time to think.
Recently I was thinking of stubborn cows. Ugh! They can be so frustrating sometimes. We check on the herd every day after work to ensure everyone is doing all right. They will usually come running when we check on them because they want to see if we have any treats. Cows love treats. It can be a little disconcerting having a one-and-a-quarter-ton bull come running towards you, though, even when you know he only wants to see if you’ll feed him.
It’s a lot of fun to feed the herd, like giving candy to a bunch of children. They push each other out of the way to get to the good stuff, to get to you. To see what you have.
Twice a year, however, we must give them vaccinations. Cattle are at risk for certain diseases like blackleg, and as good farmers, we want to protect them and keep them safe. That means we have to convince them to come into the corral, line up in the pens, and walk single file down the alley. At the end of the line, there is a squeeze chute. Once they walk into the chute, we capture their head in a harness and apply pressure to their sides. This process keeps the animal secure and safe from hurting themselves or us while we work on them. We will check their overall health, give them shots, de-worm, protect them from biting flies, and give them ear tags if they’ve lost them while in this contraption.
Here’s the hard part, though. When we lined them up this fall, they acted like they didn’t know how to walk down the aisle. They behaved as though we were going to behead them if they stepped into the squeeze chute. Jeepers! I mean, really? Have you ever tried to force an animal of that size to walk two more steps instead of backing up? It’s difficult.
Some animals went the opposite direction when we tried to coax them forward. One unfortunate cow, who was less aggressive than the rest, got so squished by her sisters she kept mooing and complaining. She didn’t want to push the others. She wanted to complain. A lot. The cow in front of her backed up, the cow behind went forward, and there she was, stuck in the middle—whining.
In my day job, I’m an observer and manager of people. I often see some of these same qualities in those around me, as well as in myself. Sometimes we’re stubborn folks, aren’t we? We want what we want, or the opposite, don’t want what we don’t want. If we think we’re going to get a treat, we’ll come running.
But if we believe we won’t like what’s coming, neither pushing nor poking will move us. Even if what is at the end is what we need, you’re going to have to drag us kicking and screaming to get there. Some of us are pushy and want our way to where we “squish” others without a second thought. Others are so cautious about hurting our teammates’ feelings in life that we end up getting pooped on. (Farm term there, and yes, they do.)
Perhaps we all need to spend a minute here and there to determine the end goal for our lives, our year, our day, or for that one nagging issue. Maybe it’s time to get our medicine and get ourselves “checked out” by someone who truly cares. As a farmer, that’s me caring some days. But other days, I’m simply the stubborn cow.
Have thoughts to contribute to this? I’d love to hear from you.