Calf Diarrhea

June 17, 2004

Once upon a time, Mrs. skinnyonbenny was just a young college girl named Heather, and I was the yankee guy that she kept bringing home for visits. It's important to note that I had not 6 ounces of muscle on me at that time.

Home for Heather happened to be a working cattle farm, so occasionally, I got put to work. On this particular day, I don't recall getting any advance notice or warning that we were going to work, just a sudden invitation to take part.


I most assuredly wasn't offered any sort of work boot or coverall, so I darted out in my wrinkled khaki shorts and polo shirt -- my regular uniform in the early 90s (and pretty much still what I wear now, come to think of it).

We went out to a pasture to either feed a calf, or give it some kind of medicine. I can't remember which. If you picture a calf as a friend to the human, willingly accepting his food and medicine, then your mental image is drastically mistaken.

Instead, we cornered the calf, and herded it into a pen with a dead end. The process is that you brace a shoulder in a flank, and push with all your might just to keep it in place so that it can be force fed. I think I was having fun with it right up through this part.

Things went downhill suddenly. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted stream of calf diarrhea shot out in a slightly upward arc. Calf diarrhea is a very distinct color. If you picture dijon mustard, you're close. Mix in just the smallest amount of brown and green with your dijon mustard, and you've got it. I occasionally use "calf-diarrhea" to describe something else that color. I think you can get that color in the really, really big box of Crayolas now. (Some of you will even recall that my bathroom was briefly painted in calf diarrhea.)

Anyway, it squirted about like you could squirt water from between your teeth if you had a gap like Letterman. As the calf struggled to get free, the diarrhea stream snaked around as if it had a mind of its own. That left me doing a sort of dodge-stream dance, trying to keep it from touching my pretty-boy clothes. At the same time, I had to keep my little bit of strength pushing the calf forward, so it wouldn't trample me in a reverse stampede.

This went on and on. The diarrhea would stop just long enough for me to catch my breath, and when I would let the thought that it might be over cross my mind, out would come another stream. A couple of times, a big splosh of it came out.

The feeding ended as I neared total exhaustion. I honestly couldn't tell you if the whole episode lasted 10 minutes or an hour, but it seems like it was closer to the hour. I managed to get out of there with minimal damage: some diarrhea on my shoes, and a smallish smear of it on one leg. It could have been so much worse.

Now that I'm locked in by marriage, I do get put to a lot more work out there than I used to. But I haven't been invited back out to feed calves since that one time.