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Colorado Livin' / Humor

Don’t have a cow, man (or least don’t win one)

Don’t have a cow, man (or least don’t win one)

Raffles. Anyone who’s lived in a town of less than 10,000 people knows that they are to rural communities as witch costumes are to Halloween. In other words, everywhere you look. I’ve bought raffle tickets that promised me a chance to win everything from a handmade afghan blanket to $200 worth of decoys from Cabela’s. As usual, I bought the ticket, not so much because I needed a blanket or faux mallards, but because I couldn’t say no to a Boy Scout or the admin assistant’s granddaughter, the one trying to raise money to pay for her Chess Club’s championship tournament in Albuquerque.

My most recent raffle ticket cost me five dollars and bought me a chance to win a) a cow b) a rifle or c) 20 bucks worth of goodies from Wal-Mart. I never win stuff. I just don’t. I especially don’t win raffle tickets. In fact, I’ve often wondered if they’re for real as I can’t think of anyone from my small communities that has actually won a raffle anything. So I had NO PROBLEM going, “Yeah, yeah, sure. I’ll take a ticket for a cow. Here’s your five bucks.”


I won. OF COURSE I would win when the item being offered is a living, breathing animal that needs approximately 30 pounds of feed and 25 gallons of water per day. To be fair, it’s not actually a COW. It’s a STEER. It weighs about 900 pounds, and it enjoys licking salt, chewing on its cud, and scratching up against fence posts.

I received the call that I had won last week buy a guy who wanted to know when I was gonna pick it up. “Pick it up?? You mean… the steaks and stuff?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “No, the butchering is on you. So when can you pick up your steer?”

I responded the only way I knew how — with a heavy dose of sarcasm. “Umm… I live in a condo. On the river. My yard is kind of communal. And…there’s no fences. I mean, I could run it by the condo association… we are allowed one pet per unit, but…I kind of think they meant pets small enough to fit in the backseat of a car, ya know?”

There was nothing but silence on the other end of the phone. He wasn’t kidding. And he certainly didn’t think there was anything funny about me suddenly owning a STEER.

Lucky for me, I work in the field of natural resources conservation and three-quarters of my co-workers either farm or ranch or both. So I had several offers from people willing to loan me a trailer and help me round up my cow (I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time calling this thing a STEER. I’ve never looked out into a grassy field and admired the steers. They have always been pretty COWS.). These co-workers of mine have also helped me find reputable meat processors and even offered to grain feed this animal if I so chose to go that route in order to get that “marbling” effect.

Meanwhile, the cow donator told me that I needed to go out to his ranch and PICK the one I wanted. PICK. As in, go look at a bunch of cows and somehow decide which lucky one will end up in my freezer.

So I did. I went out and watched several potential dinners loafing around, squinting into the sun, pooping, and swatting at flies with their tails. It was horrible. And, by the way, I’d recommend it to everyone. Go look into the eyes of the totally clueless animal who is destined to become your hamburger. HORRIBLE, I tell you.

As it is, I have started trying to make the switch from all-out omnivore to flexitarian. It’s really rough because I LOVE me some red meat. Steaks, fajitas, meatloaf, I love it all. But I also know that cows are pretty hard on the environment. As I mentioned, they consume massive amounts of water and feed, and the commercial production of cattle also contribute to air pollution due to the amount of fuel necessary to transport them all over the country, and then there’s all that methane that isn’t doing anything for the global warming problem. Plus, there’s the maltreatment of commercially-grown cattle that has always bothered me. The antibiotics, the hormones… I could go on and on.

But I’m a conservationist and so I know that there are sustainable ways to do just about anything, even raising cattle. And this rancher is doing everything right. My cow is being grass fed. My cow doesn’t come from a crowded feedlot where he’s mucking around in his own waste. My cow isn’t coming from Wisconsin and, therefore, wouldn’t be burning hundreds of gallons of fuel to reach my refrigerator. My cow is pretty darn organic. And… I’ve got a mouth full of CANINES and MOLARS that do such a great job at processing prime rib with portobello mushrooms and maybe a slab of some crusty sourdough bread.

But I’ve gotta tell you. It’s really hard to get those big brown eyes out of my head. He’s still wandering around in Mr. Rancher’s field. Lucky for him, it’s hunting season and butchers everywhere are booked solid taking care of deer and elk and whatnot. So I’ve still got some time to figure out what the heck one does when they win a cow. My husband has already said, “You butcher the thing, dammit! We’ve got four kids to feed!” Yeah, yeah.

The bottom line: Don’t buy a raffle ticket, even if it’s going to help pay the hospital bills for your great-great grandpa’s heart surgery, UNLESS you are fully prepared to actually win.

Tell me, what would YOU do if you’d accidentally won a cow?


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  1. Catherine,
    I almost peed myself laughing when I read this. It was so good that I forwarded it to a colleague (because he wanted to know why I was laughing so much).
    Congratulations on winning a cow. In the originality sweepstakes, I have to say it, you won.
    Also, Ebay may be calling you. If you don’t feel like keeping Betsy, try auctionning her off.

  2. I have lived in a farm town and know all too well about those raffles… you buy the tickets to be a good neighbor. Someone really wins?! Who da thunk..

    If I won a cow (er, steer) it would be a real predicament. I, too, am a proud wine drinking carnivore but those big brown eyes would get me, as well. Honestly, my dear hubster and I have actually had this conversation. We live on the edge of suburbia in the sticks that allows farm/large animals. When we moved here it went something like, “Can I have a giraffe?”
    DH: “No”
    Me: “Why?”
    DH: “Because..”
    Me: “Can I have a cowie?”
    DH: “Yes!!”
    Me: “Really?!”
    DH: “For butchering”
    Me: DEVASTATED.. “Noooooooo, for milk and and and.. ”
    The bottom line is, in this house, if I name it it’s a PET. DH sees a freezer full of delightful dinners waiting to be prepared. It would be a battle of the wills to keep Bessie alive..

  3. Wow. I can’t even imagine what I’d do with a whole, living steer. And speaking as a former vegetarian, I totally get the whole “brown eyes” part of the equation. But it sounds like you’ve got everything all sorted out. And think of the fajitas!

  4. Oh. My. Gosh. I died laughing over this. As much as I love beef, I just don’t think I could send Bessie to the slaughterhouse. My aunt raised llamas–about 90 of them and I was shocked when one day, she made llama meat out of her least favorites.

  5. P.S. Note to self: stay on her good side. 🙂

  6. That’s just a load of bull!

    Thanks for the laugh!

  7. I would be so excited. My two year old loves cows and we live on land that actually has some cows on it. Maybe she would be the youngest 4H’er around. I don’t know much about these animals but we would learn. One of Cora’s favorite pass times is to give a ‘pound’ ( hand in a fist) to the cows noses that live near by.

    Amber find a way to drive your cow to Carbondale and we will raise it t’ill it is fat and old.


  8. That is hysterical! My husband would totally share your hubby’s. You are a brave, brave mama to actually go visit your cow. I would have removed myself from the whole thing (cowardly, I know) and passed it off to the guy who was enthusiastic about it.

    Funny! I will never see another raffle again without thinking of your story!

  9. OK. My eyes aren’t brown. And you’re never allowed to look into them.

    Hi-larious, Catherine. I’m mooooooooved beyond words.

    I will never again buy a raffle ticket. Just in case

  10. At first I thought this was going to be about cow pasture bingo, that lovely game where you buy chances for squares of the pasture, and where ever the cow poops is the spot that wins the prize. I haven’t heard of actually raffling off a steer!
    Yeah, I think I’d have it butchered, and think about buying a trunk freezer. A whole cow is A LOT of meat.

  11. OMG this is soooo freaken funny! I love it. My husband said well goot eating i guess…… lol this is great!

  12. Wow, thanks for all the great comments and advice, ladies. As far as problems go, this one is pretty hilarious, right? I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  13. One more thing:

    I think the next Mile High Mamas get together is going to be a hamburger cookout. At your place.

  14. Love the hamburger cookout idea. Just don’t make us be there to slaughter it. 🙂

  15. Oh, Cathy, honey! You NEVER look into the eyes1 NEVER!! You just look at the body, avoiding the face at all costs, if it’s going on the table!!

    Sigh. So much to teach.

  16. So much to learn, Lyn!!

    Amber, if *I* have to be there to slaughter it, then Mr. Rancher will just have to keep his cow. 🙂

  17. FYI, it is SEVERAL hundred dollars to have a cow, steer, whatever butchered. I looked into it a couple of years ago, to split with a friend and it was about $300 each, unless you wanted mostly ground beef…..

    I know what you mean about the name. I was once at dinner at a friends enjoying an excellent Ribeye when her son said “I didn’t realize Hershey would taste this good” oh isn’t he cute he’s pretending he is eating chocolate….”oh know, that was his cow’s name” his mom said….ummmm, I’m done. Thanks

  18. Oh gosh that would be my luck and I’d have a pet cow out there with the horses. I don’t eat red meat anymore but my dad has cattle and they have a nice green life until *****.

    I’ll check the prize list better the next time I enter a raffle.

  19. My parents recently moved to rural Montana from Highlands Ranch. My mother signed them up for a program where they let a cow graze on their five acres of prarie for the summer, the nice man takes it away, and brings back half the cow in exchange for feeding it all summer for free. I found it both hilarious and disturbing.

  20. Hahaha! Oh. M. Gee! This made my morning! Thank you for making me laugh so damn hard!

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