My Heart is Broken.

Tack

Tack  2001 – 2015

I have to put my dog to sleep today, and that is exactly as rotten as it sounds.

Tack is 14. There is cancer and there’s a chance he won’t even make it until the vet arrives at noon. Yes, Sam and I are the people who pay the farm call to have the vet come here. Tack is wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire and Sam has gone out to hire some guys. He needs his barn cleaned, new sand in the stalls and a hole dug behind the shop, right where we always watch the moon rise.

This is terrible.

September 2004 trip to Brookie Lake 036

Colorado high country. Sam, Tyler and Tack.

In a recent post about Christmas, I said that openly inhabiting joy and sorrow at the same time is a courageous gift you can give the people around you. So this morning, I didn’t go to work and Sam and I went out to feed the cows together. Every morning for the last 14 years, Tack has ridden shotgun with Sam to go feed the cows. He’s a cattle dog. It’s his job. Today, I went instead. Sam has hands like anvils, but a heart like goose down – especially when it comes to his animals.

january 2010 048Even though it is raining and cold, or perhaps for that reason, when we got to the far side of the ranch, the calves were running around playing. Watching them, it’s hard not to laugh. When calves run, they stick their tails in the air and they look like monkeys. Ever heard the expression high tailing it? Well, I think this is where it comes from. Sam knew this would make me laugh.

Then he reminded me of the time in Colorado the dogs chased a marmot into a twenty foot culvert. Tack stood at one end and barked into the hole, and was delighted to discover he’d invented a dog megaphone. I swear you could hear him barking for miles. Sam had to take a knee he was laughing so hard. If we’d filmed it, we could have won money on the funny home video show.

Our high country neighbors have equally funny stories because if Sam was ever around for drinks or dinner, Tack, Kota and Gracie were there too. One morning, just after sunrise, neighbor Deann came hauling down our driveway. She had Tack, smiling, ears flapping, in the back of her truck. Evidently he’d stayed over at her house, under her bedroom window, courting her girl dog all night. Of course, Deann thought this was awesome and stopped just long enough to boot his ass out of her truck.

We laughed about that later, after she got some sleep.

Making Hay 2010 270

He can never nap alone.

Flannery O’Connor said, “I write, because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say,” and that’s probably the reason for this post. Also, if you see me a little low tomorrow you’ll already know why. I know some of you are praying for us. We feel it, and we’re grateful.

On Dead Cows and Miracles.

Coeur de boeuf tomatoes

Coeur de boeuf tomatoes (Photo credit: Franka-in-London)

This afternoon, Sam and I butchered a 500-lb heifer in the woods behind our house. Her insides smelled like milk, which makes less sense than you might think, since we raise beef cattle.

All that may sound like metaphor, coming from the girl on the right in the wedding dress, but it’s not. I’m a Texas ranch wife and things like this happen. The heifer broke her leg. Sam called me at a friend’s house and said, “hurry home, I need help butchering this calf. Bring ice.”

This post has little meaningful purpose other than to explain the kinds of things I get up to when I’m not sitting at my desk thinking about Jesus. Some of my followers from Kirk Ranch Organics miss crispy, down-home ranch stories like this, this and this, so…

This is him.

This is him.

Sure enough, when I got home, Sam was waiting with his .38, a rope, sharp knives and four coolers. He’s kind of a bad-ass in this department, a son of the deep American South with years of deer and elk hunting under his belt; a fact that reminds me, if things go south on this planet, like the doomsday preppers predict, I will be hot on his heels.

I’ve been on plenty of hunting trips, but like most people, I’m usually on the skillet end of the animal, not the slaughtering end. So today was my day.

“Hold her right here,” Sam said. So with both hands, I grabbed the bones of her brisket that he’d just split open. She was well and truly gone, but still warm under my gloves. Then I watched her lungs spill out of her body and I touched her heart – coeur de boeuf tomatoes mean something to me now. Once I got over my revulsion, I got curious about her stomachs, and her veins and the green grass still inching through her intestines.

Maybe this sounds revolting, but if you appreciate a medium rare filet mignon, like I do – well, this is where they come from. Big fatty, steers are better for sure, but we’ll make do. Thanks little heifer #992.

More importantly, when you consider the profound stillness of a rapidly cooling heart in your hands, this life, here, right now, seems much less a smash-up accident, and more the exceptional miracle it is.

“There are two ways to live,” Albert Einstein said. “As if nothing is a miracle, or everything is.”