The Complications in Caring For Hungry Bull Calves

Every evening, the platitudes of my evening news are repeated from Los Angeles, and during the more festive parts I'm told that a certain company makes a drink that's good to the last drop.

Since it is not my duty, intent, or purpose to adjudicate the assets of international conglomerates in this day and age, I shall skip everything in between and speak about Blatchford's Calf Meal, which was a standby staple when that certain company hadn't yet painted its front porch. Blatchford's Calf Meal was good to the last drop.

Seen in every grain and feed store in the land, the advertising for Blatchford's Calf Meal showed a bull calf of tender age with a pail over his snoot and his head lifted lunarward so he could get the one remaining vestige of his delicious supper. And the legend for all to read was, ''Good to the Last Drop.''

Not shown in the picture were the tens of thousands of good little boys across our fair land, who were, like me, at the same time, out in the barn feeding Blatchford's Calf Meal to the lucky little beef critters that had been entrusted to said little boys for two reasons: That the calves would do well, thrive, and fetch a goodly profit at the auction. And that the little boys would mature into useful men, their noggins loaded with good things to know, their dispositions amiable, their judgements fair, and their opinions solid. I offer myself modestly as one of the finer examples of a successful product.

''Raising up'' a calf was a boy's highest desire, his first step toward manhood, and his first chance to show that he would ''amount to something.'' I believe I was 6, but I was precocious about idiot work. We lived in the village, so did not qualify as a farm, and our dairy had but two milking head. This was to have one always fresh when the other was dry, and when both were milking we kept pigs that were experts in handling surplus milk.

And a calf was the periodic result. Our milkers were black Jerseys, loving family creatures with adequate supply and good cream line, which is to say they were not draft animals and I never got a bull calf destined for the yoke. I had a chum fortunate to have twin Red Durham bull calves. It was the biggest day of his life when he teamed them before the grandstand at Topsham Fair as three-year-olds and best-in-show, their rosette blue ribbons on their horns, and the governor waiting to shake the young man's hand.

Our small Jerseys gave us heifers that could become milkers, veal calves, and bull calves for veal. As fathers did then, my father finally decided I could be relied on and was ''stiddy'' enough, and he gave me my first bull calf. And a halter and a length of rope. The halter and the rope would attach Bucephalus to a ring on the tie-up wall, where he would meditate on an earlier day when he had access to his mother, from whom he was now permanently detached. Bucephalus was mine to brush and brush, to feed twice a day, to exercise, and to ''train up.''

The greatest educational institution in the world cannot, with all its facilities, professors, and sabbaticals, inculcate in a thousand years what Bucephalus can teach a six-year-old boy in five swift seconds. Saddled with billions of expenses for school purposes, the world has forgotten this, except for a few of us punchy old calf alumni who remember best of all going zip down the tie-up floor because the rope was removed from the ring in the wall and Bucephalus pulled first.

Blatchford's Calf Meal no doubt had a patent formula. I don't know. But the calf with his head in the bucket, seeking that last drop, was the favorite art of the farmland. Feed salesmen took booths at the state fair and passed little tin Blatchford cows to anyone showing an interest. I had one tacked to the wall over the grain chest, where I kept the Blatchford's for Bucephalus.

Amount was increased as Bucephalus grew, which he did every day, but when he was first removed from the parent stem to be weaned, he got a handful of Blatchford's in his pail, stirred to a mush with a stick supplied by Blatchford's in warm water. Then warmed skim-milk was added, making a thin gruel to the quantity required. Bucephalus, smarter than a PhD at all else, still didn't know how to drink from a pail. He still thought he had to go to his mommie. It is the duty of the young man to correct this notion. It is easy to teach a calf to drink.

You carry your mixed-up pail of Blatchford's Calf Meal over to the ring in the wall, the rope, and the calf, and upon arranging the equipment you thrust two fingers of your right hand into the warm, soft, and hungry mouth of Bucephalus. He thinks he has found mommie. This is deceitful. Now that Bucephalus is happy in his delusion, you move your hand slowly, with Bucephalus attached, down into the Blatchford's pail, and spread your fingers so the mixture comes up between your fingers. Finding food in this deceitful way, Bucephalus is delighted, and his immediate reaction is to release a bovine snort of pleasure, delight, and unbounded joy. This is an extremely effective educational moment.

When he snorts, he blows every drop of the delicious and richly fortified Blatchford's Calf Meal up inside your shirt sleeve, even to your armpit, the back of your neck, and you have gained a nugget of knowledge that you will never forget, and which no educational institution will otherwise bring to your attention. Namely: Don't ever do that again. Let us thank that beverage company for reminding us that bringing up a calf was good to the last drop.

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