A character from Love Earth Now, Beatrix, has passed on. This is her tribute, in memoriam.
“Meet Speckles, born at noon today,” reads the text. It’s a digital birth announcement from my college friend, Katrina, a grass-fed beef cattle farmer in Missouri. Though she grew up in Southern California (while I was doing my own growing up back in Missouri), she now lives on a 152-acre farm that’s been in her family for 187 years. . . Katrina tends her stock with the toughness of a cattle woman and the tenderness of a mother. She operates her farm with the collective wisdom of the seven generations who have shepherded it.
The fortuitous timing of her text prompts me to call her . . . As we chat, I close my eyes and imagine myself on her farm. I sit amidst the attentive mama cows, resting in a cluster on a bed of hay, gathered to guard their spring calves communally (“clubbing,” Katrina calls it). Under the gunmetal gray sky of early spring, some forty cattle roam a forty-acre pasture of tender greens punctuated by melting snow patches, dry straw spread here and there, and brown soil bared by previous grazings.
At day’s end, Buster and his rambunctious trainee, Beatrix, the farm dogs, will herd us all into the barn for warmth, where mothers and calves snuggle up close. In another month or so, Katrina will direct the dogs to herd the cattle into her garden to munch up the weeds before her spring planting.”
Here’s to Beatrix, a Very Good Dog.