Life Comes Cheaply (posted by nicole, but written brilliantly by meghann)

Posted: July 3, 2009 at 12:52 am

The gate swings open and she stumbles in. She stands there for a moment, staring at us. Then a shove from behind and she lurches forward. Wide-eyed, she comes to a standstill a few feet in front of us, her legs splayed and unsteady. She is young, very young. I can see her dried up umbilical cord. And she is beautiful. Blue-grey eyes surrounded by long, white lashes in a mostly white face, a soft pink nose, knobby knees. The baby is so unsure of herself, taking a few awkward steps back and forth, always keeping a distance between her and the stockmen. She eyes everyone warily and I imagine how terrified she must be. How many hours ago was she born and taken from her mother? 24? 48? She cannot be more than a day or two old.

The bidding begins. I cannot believe my ears. Ten dollars, five dollars, two dollars…my heart breaks. How can her life be worth so little? Motion from behind me and Carol has bid. There are no other takers. For two dollars – less than the price of a hamburger – her life has been saved. I look at the faces of the farmers around me and imagine they are thinking how foolish we are, wasting our money on an animal destined never to be productive.

Bewildered, she is corralled through another gate into a holding area. The bidding continues, but I cannot take my eyes off of her. She lies down in the sawdust. As I watch, an older cow in the adjacent pen turns her head sideways to fit through the horizontal metal bars of the railing. She sniffs the baby and slowly, tenderly, begins to lick her. The baby responds immediately, stretching her neck out and sniffing the older cow.

Suddenly the noise of the auction disappears and all I can focus on is this one peaceful, heart-wrenching moment. A cow, having had her babies taken from her who knows how many times, comforting a weak little baby, who has just lost her own mother before ever really knowing her. I quickly blink back tears, feeling that they are out of place in this place of commerce.

The baby, Emily, is now worlds away from the auction, along with Todd, another calf rescued by SAINTS. Although they are warm, fed, and cared for, the two are struggling to survive. Who knows how much colostrum they received from their mothers, that essential first milk full of protective antibodies and nourishing calories? So, they live, day to day, feeling weak and sick, their bodies under attack because they were never given the right start to life. We love them and hope for them, long for them to grow stronger, to turn the corner. But we wait.

And I am struck with the thought that, day in and day out, all over the country, tiny, helpless calves are trucked from barn to auction to barn and sold for just a few dollars. They may live or they may die. As an investment, they are not worth much, so little is invested in them. But for me, they have opened my eyes to the reality of animals as commodities, a reality that I will not be quick to revisit, but am grateful to have experienced.

So, for Emily, the little calf that Carol bought because she saw her true value, I have written this story.

11 Comments on "Life Comes Cheaply (posted by nicole, but written brilliantly by meghann)"

  • Carol says

    you made me cry.

  • Deb says

    Me too. At 3:40 A.M., the true weight of “humanity’s” calculated mistreatment of other species can be felt like a rock on one’s chest.

    Please be well, little babes.

  • lynne says

    it really brings it all to an ugly cruel way of life for these little and big animals. hoping the babies will be alright and yes you made me cry too. got to dry my eyes before i go to work. too bad more people could not read your story and understand.

  • Jenn says

    Meghann! you are a gifted writer. I would love to create a short video with you reading the story in the background and some grainy images … of a gate swinging open … little emily … and then end with happy note of emily at SAINTS.

    With all of us rooting for her, and all of the medical care she is recieving I really truly hope she makes it through because she will have a long and very happy life ahead of her.

  • Beverly says

    Very nice Meghann!

  • nicole says

    yay meghann

  • Meghann says

    Thanks, everyone! After the auction, I felt there was a story in me somewhere. It was such an eye opening experience. I was actually crying as I wrote it. I read it to my husband last night and was crying then too.

  • Shelley says

    That story is about one thing: the rare gift of empathy. If we all felt it to the degree Meghann does the world would be a heavenly place.

  • Amelia says

    thank you for sharing your story.

  • Marion says

    I could so visualize this event Meghann, what a story, I sat here with goosebumps..and then also what Carol wrote, too many babies taken away from their moms too early and the older cow licking this poor baby..
    wow..emotional..and true..

  • Patti says

    tears here too… so sad… I pray Emily makes it.

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