Being in the dark is sometimes best


It strikes me as a bit humorous that everything old has become new again in many segments of our society.
The one that has struck a chord with me is the “new” idea of growing your own food. A brochure on how to grow organic foods reads, “You will always know exactly what went in to your food, from seedling to the table, from barn to the cooking pot.”
Farm folks have had this idea for more than a few years now, and it’s worked out pretty well.
Cringing. Sometimes, though, knowing exactly where our food came from could be a mighty tough pill to swallow.
One particular episode comes to mind, and still makes me cringe.
When I was about 12 years old, we had a beautiful Holstein milk cow named Lynn. Though she was large-boned and struck an imposing figure, she was sweetly well-behaved, and the most sleek and sharp of any cow in the dairy herd.
I considered her my favorite out of the 100-plus cows in the herd. She would often seek me out and let me scratch her forehead. We were pals.
One chilly morning, after having finished the milking, Dad opened the gate to the feed lot and pasture for the herd. They would sometimes take their time leaving the barn this early in the day. It was later that morning when I found Lynn, still in the freestall part of the barn, her back legs splayed out. She had slipped on an icy patch on her way to the feed lot. She was trying to get up, but it was obvious this was a losing battle.
I frantically searched for my dad, telling him that Lynn needed a veterinarian right away. He went to the dairy barn with me, and upon seeing her, he sent me to the house.
Another life? He later told me that there was nothing that could be done for Lynn. She was injured beyond repair, and couldn’t be a milk cow anymore.
I didn’t want to think what was going to become of her, but I finally found the nerve to ask my older sister Debi.
“Oh, she is going to get to be a circus performer cow now, didn’t you know?” I was a bit puzzled, because I had seen the look on my dad’s face when he told me I’d better go to the house.
“Dad didn’t say that,” I said, skeptically.
“Well, he just didn’t want you to worry about which circus Lynn ends up with, because some of them are not as nice as others. But, I happen to know that Lynn is going to the one where the animals all get treated like favorite pets. It’s going to be great for her! She will be the star of the show.”
Pining away. Well, a couple weeks went by. I was still pining for that sleek, black cow with the little triangle of white on her forehead. I was summoning up the courage to ask if we could get tickets to the circus.
I washed my hands and headed toward the kitchen for dinner, when I heard Dad say to Mom, “This steak looks really good. Is this the meat we just got back today?”
To my horror, just as I came around the corner in to the kitchen, I heard my mother answer, “Yes, this is the Lynn cow,” as she sat a second platter of sizzling steak on the Lazy Susan in the middle of the round table.
I froze in mid-step. I looked at the platter. I looked at my parents, one at a time, both acting as though everything was just fine. I looked at the platter again, and burst in to tears.
I backed away from the table and headed for my room.
I can tell you this – knowing exactly where your food comes from can be too much for the heart to bear. I think I’ll stick to berries and beans!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.