Taking the Calves to Market

 

From the book “How Dear to My Heart” by Walter Kilborn Billings

 

In the ordinary herd of cattle on the farm there were very few thoroughbreds and in the spring it was the custom to keep the offspring of only the best cows.

A neighbour, wishing a good calf to raise could usually get one for the asking; all others were fed for a few weeks for veal or slaughtered. At the present time many whole herds are thoroughbred animals and young calves not needed on the home farm are sold for prices ranging from twenty-five to fifty dollars each.

My job was to dispose of the unwanted calves, and rather than kill them I would try to feed them for a few days and sell them to a drover, who usually called about once a week. It was sometimes a difficult feat to teach a young calf to drink from a pail, as usually it would it would put its nose down to the bottom of the pail, give it a bunt and over would go the milk on the floor or on your clothes.

 

 

The C.P.R. Wharf located at Block House Island in Brockville
C.P.R. Wharf and sheds at Brockville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One week when I had missed the drover he left word he would be at the C.P.R. dock the next day, and would take the two calves I had. As I did not care to kill them I decided to load them in the spring wagon and go to town with them. Tying their feet and then tying the caves themselves, I started.

King Street Brockville looking West from Market Square.

 

A cousin, Annie Slack of Lansdowne, who was visiting us, decided she would go along. It had been raining and the roads were muddy, but all went well until, passing along King St. (Brockville), just opposite Gilmour & Co. office, someone called from the sidewalk and pointed to the back of the wagon. Looking around I saw one calf, hanging, its body suspended behind the box and its feet tied to the other calf. I stopped the horse and handing the reins to the girl I jumped out and ran around behind. I was too late. The other calf had struggled and both had fallen to the street. Brockville streets in the spring were not the clean paved thoroughfares of the present day. Then they were covered with a couple of inches of mud and filth in which the calves were lying. A few years previously we had brought a long black fur coat. It had always been a couple or three inches too long for walking comfortably but I never had it shortened, and this day I had worn it, as the weather was still cold. The horse was a bit nervous as a crowd was beginning to gather to watch the fun.

I stooped over, gathered the calves in my arms, and was just straightening up to land them in the wagon when the horse made a step ahead. I attempted to move up also but my foot caught in the front of my coat and down I went full length, my arms still around the calves. My cap fell off, and finally freeing myself from the calves which were struggling and splashing in the mud, I saw that my driver was so convulsed with laughter that she could do nothing with the horse. Hailing a passing team I got the man to come and hold my horse. He backed the wagon nearer to me, and this time I managed to land my load in place.

It must have been a very amusing scene for those on the board side walk, but I did not see much fun in it and got away and down to the dock and rid of my load. When I got home and told my parents, I said “Never again! The calves can die of old age before I ever try that again.”

 

Holstein Sale at Avondale Farm in the 1930’s

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