Friday, August 31, 2007

Lil' dogie thought he was a doggie

By Kevin Duling

Some of the greatest gifts in life are unplanned. Just out of college, I was in the cattle business. Being too much of a softy, my cows were the most spoiled creatures on the planet.

Calving season was supposed to be in early November. Sometimes calves would be born a week or two early, but most liked to wait until it was 5 degrees with a strong east wind.

For some reason, one of my best bovines didn’t get bred back. December went by and she didn’t even look pregnant. Being too soft, I told her she could stay for one more year to try again.

On a warm day in June, I was out driving around the place when I noticed a small black spot in the field. As I approached, I could see a newborn calf standing by his mother, who had just died. Numerous thoughts ran through my head. “What am I going to do with that?” “How did she get pregnant?” “Whose bull got out?” etc, etc.

The important question should have been, “How am I going to get him back to the house?” The tools available were a small rope and a Dodge pickup. As my calf-roping skills were well below par, this turned into an adventure.

With his legs tied and his body resting in the back of the pickup, it was time to drive the 2 miles to home. The first mile went smoothly. Assuming the second mile would too, I was startled to see something black in my driver’s side mirror. The calf got loose, stood up, and was leaning out the left side of the pickup bed.

With home in site, this was no time to stop and fight with a bull calf. After we arrived, I figured the best place for him was in the yard until he was big enough to be in the corral. My two black labs would take great care of him.

With a family vote, the name “Newman” was given to the calf. A couple months had past and Newman and the two dogs grew to like each other. I have no doubt Newman believed he was a black lab. He was the right color anyway. I did find out that head butting a 3 month old calf can be a little bit painful.

During harvest, my yard was the picnic area. As we opened our lunches, Newman smelled something good. I watched as family members gave the two labs bites from their lunches. Newman, who was resting by me, showed interest in the bag of potato chips I was eating. I gave him one. He wanted more and was willing to fight to get them.

Newman eventually had to be placed in the corral. A 2,000 pound steer can wreak havoc on a freshly watered lawn and a satellite dish. Newman could never understand why he couldn’t be with his two lab buddies.

Not only did Newman grow to be a popular conversation piece among friends, he became an attraction to all my nieces and nephews. As word of a 2,250 pound pet circulated, people always had to ask about him.

With the fear of man absent, Newman was not easily moved. In fact, he couldn’t be budged. You could push on him, pull his ears, sit on him, try to scare him, nothing would work. He would much rather be scratched under his chin.

A break-through occurred during lunch one day. As I was crunching on a potato chip, I gained an idea. As it turned out, Newman would move in my direction quickly if I had a potato chip bag. Just one crinkle of the wrapper and he was mine for a half-mile.

Newman’s job was to mow the barnyard and train the yearling steers to stay home, which he did successfully for many years. He passed away at the age of 11.

Newman was not planned, but he was a blessing to many. He was a good stress reliever because he was unexcitable and was a really good listener. He has no doubt found greener pastures and hopefully some potato chips. It is amazing to me the amount of joy that started with a little unexpected black spot in the field.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

No comments:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos