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The Calves on the Funny Farm: A Short Story (Based on Billybuc's Photo Challenge)

Lori has been writing fiction since she first caught the writing bug at age nine.


Before the Story, a Few Things

Bill Holland loves to spurn writers on. One of his ways is to offer photo prompts and an invitation to write a short story, poem, or whatever based on any or all of the photos he puts up. This short story I've written is from the photograph above that came from his Billybuc Photo Challenge/Prompt Installment #3. I chose to do something humorous because this particular photo struck me funny. Whether I've succeeded in my effort to amuse I don't know, but it is what it is.

I actually did a little research on the tagging of cows. Here is a rundown on what I learned:

  • Tagging is done on calves.
  • Tagging is color-coded. Some farmers use their own color code system. For simplicity, I have broken it down to yellow for heifer, white for bull, and blue for steer.
  • The tags can give a variety of information such as DOB, parentage, gender identity (heifer, bull, steer), inoculations, etc.
  • Female Bovines are called Cows.
  • Male Bovines are Bulls.
  • Steers are castrated bulls.
  • A female calf (baby or child bovine) who has not yet had a baby, is called a heifer.
  • Holstein's are black and white.
  • Jerseys' are brown
  • Angus's are black.

Check out the video at the end of the story. I left a link for more information.

The Calves on the Funny Farm

Effie May saw Zach coming toward her with a strange red tool in his hand and some weird yellow thing. She wanted to run but was cramped into some sort of contraption, with her head sticking out. Two of her stomachs tightened with apprehension. Zach had a look of purpose on his face and somehow, she knew it had to do with her.

He walked up to her and without missing a beat punched her ear with the tool and the yellow thing stuck to her ear.

She tried to shake her head but couldn't move much. "Ow!" she said. "That hurts. Why did you do that to me, Zach?" She tried not to cry.

He quickly walked away and she got no answer. A while later she was back in her fenced pasture where Sheba and Bully Boy were grazing together.

"What in the heck is on your ear?" Bully Boy asked.

"I don't know but it sure hurt when they done it to me," said Effie May.

"Who did it to you?" Sheba asked.

"Zach. He put me in this contraption so I couldn't move, then he used some tool to punch this into my ear, and it hurt." Effie May's voice quivered.

"Looks ridiculous," said Bully Boy. "You're never gonna get a bull with that stupid thing in your ear. I wouldn't be caught dead with you. You're out of my league anyway." Bully Boy was a sleek, sable Angus calf, vain and full of himself.

"That's not a nice thing to say to Effie May, Bully Boy," said Sheba. "She can't help it. And she's only still a heifer. A little early to be thinking of bulls and romance. Besides, you're a calf too."

"I got news for you, Sheba. It ain't about romance," said Bully Boy. "I'm nearing my prime, don't you worry."

Effie May began to cry. "I (sniff sniff) can't help it (sniff sniff). They done it to me and I couldn't stop them." Now she was bawling and could be heard all over the ranch.

"There, there, Effie May," Sheba said. Sheba was Effie May's older cousin.

Bully Boy ambled away laughing.

Sheba felt bad for Effie May and tried to comfort her and encouraged her to eat some grass and hay. Effie May's humiliation took away her appetite. She nearly choked trying to eat some spring grass. She dare not try the hay with her stomachs so tight. It was much too dry. She moped around feeling sorry for herself. Her ear twitched often. The darn yellow thing felt bulky on her ear and it was driving her crazy. She began rubbing her ear against the fence post, hoping it would fall off. It wouldn't budge. She kept trying and trying until her ear hurt so badly all she could do was bellow. She was absolutely beside herself.

"Holy Cow, Effie May, you're bleeding," said Sheba.

" hurts somethin' bad Sheba."

"Good heavens, come here and I'll lick it. Maybe it will stop bleeding." Sheba swiped her long fat tongue across Effie May's ear several times, which only made her bawl more.

"St...stop," said Effie May. "Oh, no, here comes Bully Boy with Waco and that new Holstein. What am I gonna do, Sheba?"

"Stand on the other side of me and maybe they won't see it."

It was a dumb idea of course because Bully Boy already knew it was there. Sheba and Effie May could hear him laughing and telling the others about her plight as they approached. Effie May stood between Sheba and the fence rails so they could not see her well. Bully Boy had a few tricks at the ready. He kicked Sheba in the leg twice very hard, hoping that would make her move away so he could show the guys Effie May's new earring. He had forgotten that number one, she is older and bigger than him, and two, when pressed, she would fight back, and three, she was fiercely loyal to and protective of Effie May. She kicked him back twice as hard but on his side. How she did it was a marvel to everyone, but she knocked the wind out of him.

Talk about bawling. He could be heard three pastures away. Waco, a handsome chestnut Jersey, laughed hysterically. "Hahaha. What's the matter, Bully Boy, a pretty little Jersey cow get the better of you?"

Sheba giggled mercilessly. "Ha, you know what they say about bullies? Stand up to them and they'll turn into yellow bellies and fall to pieces. You kick me again and I'll turn you from a bull to a steer before you can say "I'm full of dung."

When Bully Boy could breathe again his humiliation turned to fury. He almost kicked her again but thought better of it. Instead, he walked around her and met the back end of Effie May. He called Waco and the Holstein over.

They went and stood next to Bully Boy.

"Turn around Effie May," he said. "Show the boys your new earring."

The Holstein and Waco waited anxiously for her to turn around while Bully Boy kept taunting her. Sheba turned and whispered something in Effie May's good ear. Effie May looked back at her for reassurance.

"Go ahead," Sheba whispered, "Get mad. You can do it."

Bully Boy was now in insult mode and Effie May's hackles rose. She still had her backside to him but turned her head around to look at him. "Here's what I think of you, Bully Boy," she said and proceeded to expel a pile of dung.

Sheba and Waco went into hysterics.

"Why you little..."

"Careful Bully Boy," said Sheba, moving as if she was going to kick back at him. He moseyed off in a huff, Waco followed him with all manner of heckling.

All this time, the Holstein had not said a word. His black and white hide shone in the sun. "Don't let Bully Boy get to you, Effie May. He's not worth the dung you just made for him. Good move, by the way, no pun intended."

Effie May felt her face heat up. What was happening here? She looked askance over to Sheba. Sheba tossed her head back toward the Holstein "Turn around and talk to him, Effie May," she whispered.

Effie May was frozen. If she turned around he could see her bulky, awkward yellow tag in full sight, though she knew he'd probably gotten a glimpse of it when she'd turned to look at Bully Boy. She couldn't make herself move. Sheba tossed her head again. Before she could have another thought, the Holstein spoke.

"Don't worry. I saw your tag, Effie May," he said. "It doesn't make any difference to me. My name's Coy Roy. You're purdy no matter what's on your ear. And it's a lovely shade of yellow. Reminds me of the buttercups in the pasture."

Effie May slowly turned around and faced Coy Roy. His voice was smooth and buttery, rich with kindness. "You really think I'm purdy?" she asked him.

"I do," he said. "I'm a steer, but no reason we can't be good friends."

Effie May glowed with quiet joy. "There's some nice spring grass right here," she said. "Move away, Sheba," she whispered.

Sheba feigned indignity. "Now who's bossy?" she teased. "Oh, speaking of buttercups, I see some over there I think I'll try." She ambled away to let the new friends get more acquainted.

Effie May and Coy Roy spent the rest of the afternoon eating the spring grass and talking. And then it was sunset, a glorious pink, purple, and amber feast of the eyes. Sheba was sitting in the grass on the other side of the fenced pasture. Waco and Bully Boy gnawing at hay near the barn. Zach came out and checked on them. It would be a clear night, no need to bring them in.

"Effie May," said Coy Roy, "this was the best afternoon I've ever spent. I've never made a better friend than you. And I love your little buttercup tag."

"You're a good steer, Coy Roy, kind and well mannered."

They slept happily through the night, snuggled together, forever friends.

The next day Bully Boy and Waco were led away by Zach. A while later Sheba began laughing hysterically. Effie May and Coy Roy turned to see a mortified Bully Boy and Waco shuffling out of the barn with a big white tag on their right ears.

Effie May howled with glee. Then it was Coy Roy's turn. He came out proud of his new blue earring - blue because he was a steer. Pretty soon everyone was laughing at the turn of events. All except Bully Boy who stood pouting in a remote corner. After some ribbing from the others, he turned and in his meanest voice said, "Hardy har, one big funny farm."

That only made them laugh harder.


© 2020 Lori Colbo

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