There are many things that can slip my mind these days, but the number of calves I take to market has never been one of them. Until recently. Market Day for weaned calves is a day of mixed emotions for this small rancher. Ms. Diane names each calf when they’re born and they become more of the Cross-Dubya family than they probably should be, considering we’re a cow-calf operation. Receiving the best possible care, our quality calves have always well-represented our ranch and what we stand for.
After sorting, I spend time with each calf. I rub on them, feed them extra hay, and thank them and God for their making it to this point. While bittersweet, it’s what ranchers do, so we load them up and get on our way. Our average daily gain (ADG) hovers around three pounds per day, so our six-month-old calves weigh over 500 pounds each. With another drought year, maintaining that average required more work and costs than normal.
Here at the Cross-Dubya, we typically only sell the heifers, the young females, as we process the steers later at eighteen months. This year, I kept the twins (remember Tomasso and Tomassina who were born weighing only thirty pounds each) since they’re freemartins.
Freemartinism occurs when a set of twins are bull and heifer (male and female). It results in reduced fertility of the bull most times and certain infertility in the heifer. They’ve grown out well and are tipping the scales at just under 500 pounds each. These two characters remain inseparable, as I always see them near the other. Now, let’s get back to my inability to count past ten without removing my shoes.
The market delivery process is straightforward. I pull in, workers close the unloading area and manipulate the sorting gates in their holding area based on what’s arriving, and offload. While they’re doing that, I visit my old friend as he completes the delivery ticket. It lists my information, the color and sex of each cow, inventory number (a sequential numbering sticker they affix to each cow), and a headcount (number of cows). Once offloaded, I hear my trailer gate shut, and it’s my cue to get moving. There’s usually another load right behind me. I toss my copy of the ticket on the console and head back home.
My first order of business when I get back to the ranch is to swing by the workshop to clean out my trailer and other maintenance. As you might imagine, a bunch of nervous calves who have never left our pastures can make quite a mess while traveling at sixty miles per hour. I sometimes wonder what they’re thinking as unfamiliar sights go whizzing by.
After a thirty-minute drive home, a sixty-minute trailer cleanup, and a fifteen-minute shower, I walked out to the truck and retrieved the delivery ticket. That’s when I first noticed the error. The ticket listed one more calf than what I thought I had taken to market. I’m getting older and make more mistakes than I should some days, but I was certain of how many heifers I had taken to market. Still, Satan tossed out a serving of doubt and I was dumb enough to let it find a landing spot in my brain.
Opening my cattle inventory program on the computer, I did a count while I named each calf’s number and name, comparing it against my computerized records. Checking it twice, each time I came up one short of the number the auction listed on the ticket.
I immediately called the auction and spoke with Mr. Clay, the owner’s son. A nice young fella, I explained what I thought was a mistake and he confirmed that there were two calves in their system with the same inventory number. By mistake, the last number listed on my ticket was the same number of the first cow offloaded in the next load. “Brain fart”, we exclaimed simultaneously, and I was glad it wasn’t mine this time. We laughed about it. I advised I would strike that number from my ticket, and considered it resolved. That’s when the next surprise came.
Mr. Clay thanked me and added, “I sure appreciate your honesty. There’s very few people these days who would have done that. Most would hold us accountable to pay them for a cow they didn’t sell.” That statement floored me, as I’ve always thought farmers and ranchers to have a bit more integrity than most. I realized two things with that thought. My pride and my foolishness. It seems the world around me is more corrupt than I realized.When honesty and integrity are the exception, something’s wrong. #IntegrityMatters #WordOverWorld #Honesty Click To Tweet
Recent research shows that over eighty-five percent of farmers and ranchers in America claim some affiliation to the Christian faith. It saddened me when I considered how the cattle auction folks recognized my personal integrity as an exception. That ain’t right, I thought. God opened my eyes to reveal that perhaps this world has become even more evil and corrupt than I thought. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but its doing so served as an important reminder I want to share with you.Integrity as a Christian should not be something we have to think about. #Integrity #ChristianValues #HonoringGod Click To Tweet
Two verses came to mind while praying about the discovery about myself, and before I get to them, I want to make sure I’m not appearing a “Pharisee”. Trust me when I tell you, I’m as sinful as the next person (maybe more) and while I’ve long valued my personal integrity, it can become sinful pride.
The first verse I thought about was one that my adopted dad shared with me many years ago, not long after adopting me. He caught me in a lie, one I told because I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me. Turns out he was more disappointed because I lied to him than he was about the broken bolt.
I know also, my God, that You test the heart and delight
in uprightness and integrity. In the uprightness of my heart
I have willingly offered all these things. So now with joy
I have seen Your people who are present here, make their
offerings willingly and freely to You.
(1 Chronicles 29:17, AMP)
Dad explained to me how important a man’s word is. Not just to other men, but to themselves and to God. It took a few reminders for that young teen to understand the value of a man’s word, but when I had learned, it became a lasting part of my life. While you don’t have to be a Christian to have personal integrity, I think it important that every Christian be a person of great integrity. Matthew 5:37 demands it.
First John 3:18 was the other verse welling up in my heart. It reminded me that if I represent Christ (i.e., be a true Christian) in my life, then I must live out His values in all aspects of my life. There’s no part-time Christians. We must show His love in word and deed all the time, not when we think it will benefit us. That’s an important part of Christian life we could all improve upon. I asked myself, do I always show Christ’s presence and power in my life? I didn’t like my answer.
Something I’ve learned in life is that we can’t improve ourselves until we recognize the need for improvement. For our spiritual growth, we also can’t improve ourselves, we must ask God’s help to grow our spiritual fruit. After all, He is the vine.