Defending the Vulnerable

by Mark Eaton

Looking out the window this morning I see something unusual in the small house-pasture. I have learned that if I don’t recognize something I need to check it out. Grabbing the binoculars I could clearly see two newborns! Twins. Very rare for us.
They could both stand and nurse. That was a good sign. When we got down to them we could see the softer hooves and frail frames typical of premature calves. The mother was not very full with milk, but they were both bumping her pretty hard to get whatever they could. They might make it, we thought.
The little bull calf was the stronger of the two. Both got ear tags. Oddly, Mom was quite docile during that process. That is unusual for our momma cows. They tend to be pretty aggressive and protective of their babies in these timbered varmint-rich hills of SE Oklahoma. Then something else caught our eye. The little heifer’s tail was half gone. In fact, it had been eaten off. Coyotes! Momma was exhausted from fighting off the predators during the long night.
The vermin had gone beyond her tail and gotten into some softer places on her south side. This was clearly not good. We patched her up as well as we could and returned her to Momma. The next morning, only her twin brother was alive.
There is no nice way to tidy up this story unless one doesn’t tell the truth. Even then, an astute child can realize the Momma lost her calf. One of the advantages to living on a ranch is children get to see the birth and death, struggle and thrill of life. The creatures that join us here on this earth, in most cases, lack the ability to show compassion. Those who are predatory are simply doing what they do to survive. The rancher, in my case “me”, does what he needs to protect the ones under his care who cannot protect themselves. In this case; baby calves.
Although some will not understand this, others will consider it immoral, a few will hate me, ranchers and farmers will give me recommendations for night-vision scopes and professional hunters will be glad to charge me for elimination services. I understand that some don’t understand, will not understand, refuse to understand, have no mental framework to justify understanding. Others will respond with a refusal to understand them in turn, call them idiots, see them as the enemy or simply ignore them as uninformed with too many decades removed from their great-grandparent’s world to appreciate this issue.
So I am left, within the limits of the law, to decide what my own value is. For me, it is simple. I am over 63 years into this life game, and coming to grips with reality, the laws of the land and nature are not new issues. I made peace with my values years ago and will act in accordance to my conscience. Logic, experience, legality, opportunity, commerce, providing for my family, protecting the vulnerable, what I understand to be moral, thousands of years of human and animal interaction, my father and grandfather, my trusted friends, and Susie will be my guides.
There is a small calf out there tonight. Two days old. Momma is tired and needs to get rest.
The dusk has barely turned into darkness and the coyotes are already howling, yipping and barking, north, south and east. And now an Oklahoma thunderstorm is coming in…the first of 4 days of rain.
As humans we often get frustrated by modernity trying to sterilize and sanitize us. Our men, in particular, are struggling, wondering how to use their instincts to protect and their strength to defend in good ways. We already know defending our own egos is largely a game for fragile men who can act like junior high boys sparring for status with the 8th grade girls.
We want a real and legitimate place to live out our protectors’ heart. A good way, I suggest, is to find a group that is vulnerable, weak, and cannot defend themselves against the predators of the world. Fight for them. Ignore the howls of those who do not understand. Listen to the counsel of good trusted friends.
There was a woman who was being mocked and accused by the self-righteous. Jesus stepped in, by himself, stood between her accusers and her and invited them to throw a stone if they had one. There was no script for this. He simply did what he was made to do. (John 8)
He found and defended the vulnerable. With strength and dignity.
The coyotes are ready to go to work. So am I.

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