Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Rejection (11/15/04)
TITLE: Learning about Love from a Cow and a Bucket
By Verlie Ruhl
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“What’s that spray you put on the cow’s face?” Sannie asked.
“Mint oil,” her grandfather replied. “I rubbed it all over our orphan, too. Sometimes if they both smell the same, the cow will decide the calf is hers, and she’ll adopt it.”
Sannie held her breath. The cow approached the calf; she snuffled along its short spine, and gave the red coat a tentative swipe with her tongue. So far, so good! But when the calf nuzzled her flank, the cow suddenly shoved it away. The calf wobbled on its small hooves, then determinedly approached the cow again. But the big cow’s mind was made. She put her head down and butted the little orphan hard, lifting him off his feet and slapping him against the corral fence like a rag doll. She bellowed and started after the calf again, but Grandpa stepped in her way. “Get away, cow! Go on!” he yelled. She dodged away from his flailing arms, and trotted toward the pasture gate.
Sannie flew to the little red heap. The calf was panting, with its eyes staring dully ahead, and its jaw hanging open. “Grandpa, he’s dying!”
“Naw, he’s just had the wind knocked out of him. But we’ve got to get some milk in him—I think I’ve got some of that mix left.” Grandpa stumped off toward the barn. When he returned, he was carrying a bucket full of watery-looking formula. The bucket had a huge rubber nipple protruding from one side. “This powder mix isn’t nearly as good as cow’s milk, but it’ll do.” He dipped his fingers in the bucket, then slid them in the calf’s mouth. Its jaws began to work as it sucked on the milky fingers. With a little coaxing, the calf pulled clumsily to its feet. Grandpa rubbed some formula on the bucket’s nipple and then rubbed the nipple against the calf’s mouth. It sniffed intently, then suddenly latched onto the nipple and began to suck with all its strength, its little switchy tail snapping up and down as if it were a pump handle working overtime.
Under the brim of his sweat-stained Stetson, a broad grin split Grandpa’s face. This one was going to make it! But something was wrong with his other youngster. Storm clouds were brewing in Sannie’s hazel eyes.
“It’s so unfair, Grandpa!” Sannie cried. “This little calf didn’t hurt anybody! But its mother died, and then that other cow almost mashed it to death. Now it’s got a bucket for a mother! Why does God let such bad things happen?”
Grandpa sighed. “Well, gal, bad things do happen in this world, and sometimes we never understand why. But God always cares, and he’s chosen us to be his hands, to help folks out when bad times lay them low—just like this little calf. Why, look at him now!” The calf butted contentedly against the bucket as he continued to drink. His sides were beginning to bulge from the milk filling his belly.
Sannie digested Grandpa’s explanation as she watched the little bull eat. Something about the calf’s face reminded of her of something. The recollection skittered along the edge of her mind, just out of reach . . . then it came to her—George! The calf’s red curls and soft brown eyes looked just like that new kid at school, whose name was George. He was from back East somewhere, and he talked funny. The other kids hadn’t really been mean to him—but they hadn’t been very nice, either. Nobody sat with George at lunch, or invited him to play at recess. Why, he must feel just as left out and lonesome as this poor little calf!
“What are you thinkin’ about?” Grandpa asked suspiciously. He could always tell when a plot was forming in his strong-willed granddaughter’s head.
“I’ve been missin’ my chance to be God’s hands at school, Grandpa. But I’m going to make up for it tomorrow.” Her jaw was set with determination. Grandpa grinned. He was pleased with Sannie’s decision to help others. He just hoped that whomever she intended to rescue was ready for the experience.