One Too Many

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 Share on X

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 Share on X

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.

God’s blessings,

50 thoughts on “One Too Many”

  1. Well. YOu’ve done it again, Mr. W. On the aging track, I too notice more errors…and sometimes a misconception I’ve held for years. ARGH! Good old change has come ’round again. SO glad some things NEVER change!

    1. 😀 Nice to know I’m not alone in suffering this malady Ms. Gail. And I’m with you (some things never change) on the static aspects of our lives. Christ is chief among those. God’s blessings ma’am.

  2. None of us is immune to growing older, J. D. I certainly can identify with you in the forgetful era of things. But may we never forget to be honest with ourselves, others and our loving Father. To be a Christian in this world, we have to offer a blueprint to those around us as to how this life should be lived. Integrity should be ground zero for that.

    1. Amen Ms. Martha Jane. It’s been said in many ways, but there’s truth in that adage of, “You may be the only Bible someone sees.” How we live our lives, and that’s in all aspects of them, is ever-important as ambassadors of Christ. I can remember telling my co-workers during annual ethics training that, “I define ethical behavior as being what you exhibit at all times, whether others see what you’re doing or not.” At the end of the day, we must remember that God sees all and knows all, that includes our private thoughts.

  3. I always learn so much about ranching from you, JD
    and you are so right, integrity is integral to our walk with Jesus and example to the world.
    what will become of the twins?

    1. Thank you Ms. Jeanne. The twins will achieve their destiny as cows in about 12 more months. “Processing” is a kind way of say they’ll be slaughtered as beef. Since they can’t make or have babies, they have little value beyond their meat. It’s a hard truth, but it is what God created them for.

  4. “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”
    It’s almost a game I’ve played with cashiers and the like when I’ve inadvertently not been charged for something and bring it to a retailer’s attention. The shock and awe responses is telling. We can do better. Thanks for being one of the many who do, JD.

  5. I love reading your articles, JD. Not only do I learn a bit more about ranching, I get to know you and Ms. Diane better, and I get to see the way you think and live your faith. Thank you so much.

  6. So, do you count calves at night now, rather than sheep? At first, I thought this would be a story similar to the three of God’s servants in the firey furnace in Babylon. That the king SAW a fourth one walking around in there! Could the cattleman have “seen” an extra calf?

    I’m thankful to read that God protected your reputation, and His own holy name. Praise Him.

  7. Kathy Collard Miller

    I’m praising God for His opportunity to reveal through you His honesty and integrity. Lord, reveal yourself to many through this testimony.

  8. Your posts always brighten my days, J.D. First off, I LOVE the stories of your ranch and your cows. Then, I love how you tie them spiritually to life. I’d love to write devotions, but I never see (or rarely see) the life application. But show me an old house or tell me a great story about your cows, and I see a novel unfolding. Funny, how God uses each of us.

  9. I just love going places with you, J.D. It’s been many decades since I went to a livestock market with my grandpa and I don’t know exactly what the one you went to looked like, but the sounds and the smells and the feeling came back even after all these years. Traveling to Texas before we get to travel to Texas was fun and interesting as usual.

    Your explanation of how the glitch happened and how it was resolved was an exposition of your unique story-telling gifts. It’s one of the things that, in my mind, validates your call as a writer and makes those of us out here in your fan base anxious for the next installment. But the most important thing, obviously, applying the Word of God to the episode. Thinking about how many people would have ignored the issue and left the market holding the bag for the loss was disturbing to me as well. I am blessed to have a wife who is a “detail person,” i.e. one who could drive you nuts if you didn’t love her more than life. She would drive 50 miles to return $.50, and I am so grateful to live with someone like that because it helps me be better–not that I want to screw someone out of something, but I don’t want to overlook it either. People say, “the devil is in the details,” and I often come back with, “Yeah, but sometimes holiness is in the details, too.” That piece of truth lives in your story today as well.

    i’m glad that it was your faithfulness and trustworthiness that got noticed because it’s one of those gifts God gives us sometimes where both sides of a story get blessed. The final thing is the last comment you wrapped up with. “After all, He is the vine…” Sometimes we forget that everything that supports our life, ensures our welfare, and produces our fruit is totally dependent on Him. Once again, my friend, you’ve made Middle Tennessee a little brighter and our faith a little stronger–please let your precious wife know that we’re praying for her, and you, daily.

  10. Thanks for your insightful blog. Keeping a record isn’t always easy. So grateful the Lord’s records are always right(eous) and merciful! Blessings.

  11. You’ve shared another incredibly interesting glimpse into ranch life. But I’m surprised you would be surprised at the idea of others who think nothing of defrauding the system. Frequently we see very public examples of supposed Christians who commit acts of cheating, abuse, or deception. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I’ve seen a lot through my years. Your conclusions are right, though. The Biblical standards haven’t changed, and Christians should humbly seek the Lord to do a daily work in us.

  12. J.D., it is sad to think how many people would take advantage of auction. I can only imagine how much a calf would bring. I remember walking out of a store and thinking they had overcharged me. I added up the items in my bag and the ones on my ticket and was shocked to learn the opposite had happened. They’d missed an item. I groaned. Not only was the price higher than I’d anticipated. Now I had to go in and pay more! Which I reluctantly did. 🙂

  13. It is surprising when fellow Believers fall short on integrity. That ought not be and it’s a sad example to set for young ones and nonbelievers. It gives place to the devil and opportunity for naysayers to turn away from Jesus.
    You were a good example for those aware of the corrected error.
    God always blesses faithfulness.

  14. I love your ranching stories and infused humor. And of course you weave in an important Biblical lesson. Integrity. A man’s word. It’s discouraging to learn the world, especially your industry, is worse than you thought.
    I particularly love the last paragraph. We need to admit the need and realize we can change with the Spirit’s help. A great post! I smiled into a chuckle and was reminded of the importance of representing Christ well.

  15. It is sad when integrity and honesty are the exception. I’ve heard the same thing before several times. Like when I took an extra $20 back in the store that the clerk gave me by mistake. It’s the right thing to do, but I like how you noted even our personal integrity can become sinful pride! That’s such a good word! “Holy Spirit, reign in our hearts and make us people of integrity and honesty, trustworthy to keep our word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

  16. Great story to remind us how important — and noticed– our integrity is! It’s sad when those who profess to be Christians dishonor the Lord with dishonest business practices! And integrity is so important even in the smallest parts of our lives, but so easy to excuse in ourselves sometimes.

  17. I really appreciate hearing this story that shows we can be a significant witness for the Lord just by being honest. Hopefully, it’s reflexive for us, but it will stand out to others. Also, the best point is that we don’t need to come up with this on our own. In fact, we need to depend on God to develop integrity in us by His Spirit. Thanks, J.D.!

  18. You have shared a very important lesson today JD. We do need to live a life if integrity even when no one, other than God, is watching. It is so easy to think it will be fine, but it becomes a slippery slope. Blessings to you my friend

  19. To use a baseball metaphor (Go Braves!), you hit this one out of the park. I was right there with you through the bittersweetness of your story. Thanks for taking me along and showing me how much of a witness a small act of integrity can be.

    1. Great points Ms. Candyce. Those little acts of obedience that we don’t think anything of can speak volumes to those watching us when they’re under conviction of the Holy Spirit. I think this is one of the ways God can use us, without our even realizing we’re being used as an example or to show His light. Thank you ma’am.

    1. He does indeed Ms. Melissa. I pray that all of us will arrive in heaven to find out that we looked more like Jesus did during our time on earth than we thought we did. Thank you ma’am.

  20. I’m crying about those calves! I know, it’s business, and you can’t dwell on it. But still. 🙁
    And I agree about integrity. I always tell the truth and try to do the right thing. When I was a teacher, I encouraged my students to always be honest and tell the truth, and I threw in some personal stories for good measure to illustrate. I hope I made a positive difference in their lives as a role model. Have a blessed week, JD!

    1. Oh my goodness Ms. Karen. I believe their might be some “wrong thinking” going on here. Because I sold calves at the cattle auction at six-month old does not automatically mean they were destined to become “Veal.” That’s a misunderstanding many could make perhaps. Yes, some young calves become veal. Veal primarily comes from male dairy calves between four and five months old. Since only female cows can give mile, male dairy cow breeds (Jersey, Holstein, etc.) have little or no value to the dairy industry. They are sold for veal. The Cross-Dubya is a cow-calf operation, raising commercial, high quality beef cattle. Some of them become prime steaks. That’s what God created beef cattle for. However, the heifers (young female cows that have not been bred), are primarily sold as seed stock for other herds. They are destined to become “Mama Cows” at another ranch somewhere. For the most part, the steers (young, castrated bull calves) are often sold to feedlots. These are the beef calves that become steaks when they’re around 18-24 months old. Hope this helps clarify your, and perhaps others’ misunderstanding. The heifer calves we sold will become mama cows someplace else. We don’t keep them here to be replacement cows because we never want to practice “line breeding”, which is where a cow-calf operation interbreeds. That practice just ain’t right and can lead to problems with your herd. Hope this clears things up for you. Perhaps I should add a “Ranching Glossary” to the web site. LOL

      As for your lessons on integrity, I’m certain your examples resulted in great learning.

      1. I’m delighted to read your answer! Thank God I was misinterpreting your business and assumed these sweet babies were to be turned into veal. That lightens my heart tremendously. You may remember that my great-grandfather was a cattleman farmer in Kentucky, so the love of cattle runs tenderly in my blood. 🙂

  21. “We can’t improve ourselves until we recognize the need for improvement.” Good quote. Now the question is: are we strong and open enough to identify those areas that need improving? Yikes! I’m not sure.
    I am stunned by the 85% statistic of Christian affiliation by farmers and ranchers. Wonder why that is? Perhaps they (you) see the everyday miracles that occur and the land’s uncanny and unyielding nature.
    Oh, and, like Karen J. Harrison, I can’t think about those mooing calves. I never eat veal, baby back ribs, or lamb! Just can’t do it. Don’t let me fool you, though, I love me a great grilled ribeye anyday.

    1. Don’t worry Ms. Karen. I only raise ribeyes, and strips, and T-bones, and filets, and sirloins, and briskets, and short ribs, and roasts, and beef stew, and shanks, and hamburger, and … 🙂

      I suspect you are stronger than you think ma’am .

  22. I love the way you pray for your calves before you load them. You recognize them as part of God’s creation and you care for them so well. But of course, your real lesson for us focuses of the value of integrity and sadly, as you point out, integrity is not a priority for many in our society. As Christians, we are called to be that example, to be the light and role model Jesus would have us to be. Thank you for another inspiring lesson from the ranch. May God bless you and your family.

    1. Thank you Ms. Katherine. I so appreciate the blessing of your encouragement and support ma’am. We Christians are indeed supposed to be the example of Christ (He lives in our lives) so that others can learn of Him. We can all do a better job of that some days. God’s blessings precious friend.

  23. Integrity is sorely lacking in our world today. Thankful that there are still folks who let their light so shine before men that they may see their good works and glorify Father in heaven. It’s such a simple and profound statement that “there are no part-time Christians.” May we all walk out our faith on a full time basis.

    1. Amen! I’m sure with you there Ms. Terri. Am grateful that you do each day in your encouraging posts and comments ma’am. Thank you for being that light that points others to Jesus.

  24. Integrity and truth-telling are rare these days. Thank you for reminding us that it’s God’s way. Loved your explanation to Karen Jurgens Harrison. I’ve learned so much about cattle since reading your blog posts.

  25. Thank you Ms. LuAnn. Am glad you enjoyed ma’am, and grateful my explanation to Ms. Karen cleared up some misconceptions. I enjoy veal, although it’s been years because we don’t find much of it out here in the country. Understanding our food sources has given me a new appreciation for it. Same with how God’s Word (our daily bread) gives me more appreciation for its source too.

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