Avery’s new best friends were Google, the vet, and the feed store.
Between them all, Avery had somehow managed to nurse Baby from a 90-pound weakling calf, through a case of the scours, past his bucket-calf days and on to life as a healthy bovine.
Avery’s first trip to the Farm & Home store had yielded a bottle and calf formula, a book on calf maintenance, and a bale of straw she somehow maneuvered into the trunk of her Charger. The man at the feed store pushed back the brim of his red cap and scratched his head, wondering at her madness. Avery Jackson, the blonde in her pink, backless top, cropped jeans and sparkly sandals, was clearly no cattlewoman.
The calf took to his bottle well and spent his first night on a blanket next to Avery’s bed. She was awakened in the wee hours by the sounds of a cowpat splattering across her bedroom carpet, and it was at this point she knew it was time to educate herself. And to replace her carpet.
Baby was no puppy – he was a calf, and, cute as he was, he belonged outside. The next morning, she bedded him down in the barn, a paintless collection of ancient planks with a rusting metal roof that would barely keep out the raindrops and looked to have survived more than its share of tornadoes. Nevertheless, there was a good fence on the corral, shade, a watering trough, and enough room for Baby to move around and poop to his heart’s content.
All the reading she had done had made it clear that cattle were social animals and needed to be kept in groups in order to be happy. The idea of adding to her collection of cattle did not hold an immediate appeal – she enjoyed being the sun, moon and stars to her Baby, a rapidly growing four-month-old. She had read that bulls were dangerous animals, but it was hard for her to believe at this stage. At 400 pounds and with horns already starting to bud, Baby had followed her around the yard like a puppy, nuzzling her for comfort and treats, lowing mournfully whenever she left him, his voice rumbling deeper with each passing day.
She knew Baby had the potential to be dangerous, that one day he likely would be. But, irrational as she was in refusing to castrate him, refusing to have him dehorned, Avery was in love with being needed. Perhaps it was transferred codependency. She did not want to think too long on that prospect. At least Baby wasn’t expecting her to nurse him through a hell of addiction.
She often had thoughts of Curtis in a drug-induced sleep in his seedy motel room, dreaming again of his pro-golf days, and she shuddered. She touched her throat where his hands had wrapped themselves, and any twinges of guilt were effectively quashed. Oh yes, Avery knew only too well about getting involved with dangerous males, and she hoped to God Curtis never darkened her doorway again. Here, lying low outside of Amos, the chances of running into him were remote indeed.
But Avery had also learned the value of walking away. In the case of Curtis, she had taken their stash of cash from under the mattress – it was her money, after all – and she dropped her engagement ring on the bedside table. Maybe he could pawn it for another hit. She pointed her car west and stopped when her gas card was maxed out, rented a house and set about rebuilding her life. She traded in her Charger on an old brown pickup, and got a job at Home Depot. The money wasn’t great, but she didn’t need much.
Avery had well and truly walked away from Curtis and the trappings of her former life. She no longer dyed her hair. Her nails were clipped short and free of polish. She had put on a little weight, and Avery actually felt good about it. Walking away, she had discovered, was the best decision she had ever made in her life. She had peace. She could sleep again.
As regards Baby, her sweet, over sized lapdog of a bull, Avery vowed she would walk away when it was time.
But could she?
“Come here, sweetie,” she said, running a brush over his back and giving him a scratch behind the ears. Baby raised his head and closed his eyes appreciatively, a sound rumbling deep in his chest that sounded like a sigh. He was a pretty creature in his own way, she thought idly, rubbing the whorl fur in the center of his forehead and the space between his pink rimmed eyes. His white lashes, endlessly long, were his best feature. Looking at those, she could ignore what hung low on his underside. Time and again she had regretted her decision not to have him cut.
In her naivete, she had mistakenly reasoned he could stay a bull so long as he behaved himself.
She bent and glanced at his underbelly and felt another pang of regret. His pink scrotal sac wobbled heavily between his hind legs, the weight of his testes stretching the skin further toward his knees by the day.
Avery got the distinct feeling that Baby’s days of “behaving himself” were numbered…
feature photo: Shutterstock
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