Rarely do I go to the farm by myself. I wouldn’t want to go by myself all the time. But the few times that I do, if I’m not in too much of a hurry, under the dome of whatever sky that happens to be presenting itself, I learn something.

It was already hot last Tuesday when I left to get there early, thinking all the hour drive, how miserable the heat and drought was making my animals.

Pulling into the gate, the grass unbelievably dry, it crinkled and blew in a wind that only served to push the heat around, a stark reminder that it’s been weeks since it rained. I parked the car and saw the girls headed up from the lake.

They had to be hungry.

I counted. Six big black bodies, udders swaying under them, their babies galloping around them and one big, manly bull. 9 wasn’t with them. I looked back toward the southern part of the lake and she was down, on the other side. Despite it being early she was in the full sun and it was hot, her black hide soaking up and holding heat. She was looking at me, or at least towards me.

The pit of my stomach turned.

I paid attend to the herd that surrounded me. The newest little calf looked healthy and it’s momma was protective but bellowing along with the others for cubes. As wrong as the aborted delivery of 9’s calf had been 6 weeks ago, this latest calf’s delivery was a clear indication of how right delivery could go.

“Get up 9” I willed her, glancing over my shoulder at her, struggling with the 50 pound bag of range cubes, jingling and juggling them to entice her to the taste of molasses cow treats just in case she hadn’t realized the routine we have all participated in since she got to the farm was in play.

She remained on the ground, her head turned my way.

I let the chickens and turkeys out and watched as they ran across the hot sand from their coop to the shade of the run in barn. Clucking and whistling, they held their wings away from their body to catch any cool as they dug their little holes in the old barn dirt.

I feel the pressure of this dome of hot air that has set over Texas all summer long and as I take another glance at 9, I know. Her head is no longer up, she is only a heap on the far side of the lake.

Putting my gloves on, the chain heavy enough to move 900 pounds of flesh rattling at my feet, I take the tractor across the dam. One lone buzzard, the scout, flies over my head and positions itself about 20 feet from what used to be cow 9.

I know what brought the buzzard. Her death is ugly. Blood pools from her back end, still dripping out of her and there is froth at her mouth as she slung her head around at the end, to rest unnaturally on the shore.  I don’t really care whether its tears or sweat or both that drip from my nose onto her hide.  I hate that this happened.

I pulled her to the back pasture, where a spring fed pond is surrounded by old moss laden oaks and pushed her off the side of the little dam.  When the coyotes come they won’t confuse any little calves for the carion that is number 9 now. The vultures arrived almost before I did.

All the way back to the farmhouse, I tried to make sense of it, because the only thing that was accomplished in that cow’s existence was that in death, she is feeding all the creatures who smell her decay.  At the very least I made sure of that.

Some of the loss, I think to myself, is just what happens, but part of it was ignorance or a lack of understanding  and experience to make the right decision. I wrestle with myself. Would her purpose been better served had she been taken to slaughter? We had been told that by many. We thought to give here a different chance. We thought wrong.

Under the blue sky, no clouds to break the monotony of trying to figure out things that just might not have a good answer or maybe too many answers, I close my eyes and the pool of blood is all I see.

I think about my life and my purpose. I think about my Judeo Christian upbringing and the fact, that no matter what side of the fence you land on when it comes to faith, there is not much escaping that 2000 years ago there was a man named Jesus, who did indeed live and is recorded in the annals of history, even those that having nothing to do with the Jews. The accounts verify he died on a cross, blameless to the laws of the country he lived in with the exception that he spoke words that those in power did not want to hear.  By his own account, this Christ shed his blood for all those who would cling to him, with a majestic and fantastic promise of everlasting life, where sin and tears are no more and I would have to assume, bad decisions on cow management are no more.

In that moment of one cow’s wasted life, amid my wishing I could get back and redo, the sheer power of Christ’s innocent blood as a sacrifice for one, many, and all, soothes me.

How could an image of violence and death do that?

Is there a more powerful gesture that the creator of the universe could have chosen than this one? One that in every aspect of the most senseless times I spend here, would reckon the sacrifice, the love, the understanding as powerfully to my soul? One that only, uniquely, imperfectly humans would understand?

Not today.

Not ever.

He is who He says He is and today, well today, I’m going to fulfill the purpose that is mine for this day, as much as humanly possible, counting on the promises of a sacrifice 2000 years ago… there’s not a minute to waste in doing so…