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A farewell to boys and cows

Cattle have been grazing the pastures of our little farm since we moved here 24 years ago. My father-in-law, John Prater, gave me and my husband, Jayson, two beautiful polled Herefords, and we built a herd.

When each of our three sons was born, Papa John gave them a heifer of their own. Jake got a black white-face named Speckles, Luke got Daisy the Charolais-Hereford cross, and Will got Miracle, a sweet red Hereford.

Miracle was born in the middle of a blizzard. She was a twin, and her mama didn’t take to her. John brought the freezing little calf into the house, turned her into a spoiled bottle calf, and gave her to Will.

For 16 years, Miracle was a friendly face in the pasture, demanding head scratches whenever any of us were near. She gave Will many fine calves. Each of our sons established his own little herd. Eventually, Jayson and I sold our cattle so the boys could take full advantage of our pasture.

Graduation Brings Changes

When Jake left for college, he sold his cattle, and his earnings helped pay for tuition. The following year, Luke joined his brother at Northwest Missouri State, and Will agreed to take care of Luke’s cattle along with his own.

Last December, Luke and Will decided to sell. They had fall calves, so they sold their herds as pairs. More cattle-turned-tuition. Will had finished the cattle-raising part of his FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience. He wasn’t looking forward to another season of busting ice on the tank and feeding in the cold.  

Before Miracle and the rest of the cattle were loaded up for their trip to the sale barn, I took some senior pictures of Will with her. It was bittersweet, thinking of little Will and his red calf. They had grown up together and now it was time for Will to say goodbye to Miracle, and nearly time for us to say goodbye to Will. He will join his brothers at Northwest this fall.

Young Will Prater and his cow, Miracle
Lisa Foust Prater
Priceless Lessons

I am so thankful my boys had this experience. In addition to the business lessons, the cattle taught them about life and death, responsibility, hard work, and how to care for something other than themselves.

It’s strange not having cattle. The dog still bolts out the door and runs to the spot he used to meet them at the fence. When a neighbor calls, for a split second, we think, “Are the cows out?”

Jayson and I have no immediate plans to get more cattle. But someday, God willing, we’ll have grandchildren, and we’ll no doubt do for them what Papa John did for our boys. Hopefully without the blizzard.

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