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The Tribute Arena

February 3, 2005


Sugar came to Sabourin as a yearling heifer bought on April 30, 1984 at the stockyards. My husband's intent was to let the heifers graze the pasture and sell them in the fall. With Shug were two other heifers, Queenie and Red. Queenie was as mean as Shug and Red were sweet. When it came time to sell them, Chet loaded Queenie first and then both Shug and Red refused to get on the trailer with her, beginning their permanent home.
Shug was first bred in February, 1985 but her first born, Spice, did not survive. I wrote: Sugar had her calf between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., but it was dead when Chet went to check on her. A bull calf, black, big, looked fine. Shug was in good shape. Wish we'd been there. You always think you have done something.

Shug came in heat in January, 1986 and we took her to Ben, a gentle red Saler bull. We heard her ankle pop and thought she broke it but it was fortunately badly sprained. Vet said to keep her off her ankle and let it heal. Shug understood and patiently stayed down in her stall and let me put her feed pan, water and hay so she didn't have to get up. When she'd hear me approaching the barn, she'd talk. We had many conversations. When I'd check her swollen ankle, she would say it still hurt.

By February, she was up and limping, but much better. Candy was born January 30, 1988. Chocolate Chip was born in February 1989 and became a herd bull for first calf heifers on a Hereford ranch because he threw small calves, easier to birth. One day, Sol found Chip on the ranch road outside of the fence. He merely put his arms around Chip's neck and led him back inside the pasture. I always taught all of the calves to lead, but this was Sol's first "trained" bull. Chip inherited Shug's gentle personality.

Candy & Shug

The cow stalls in the barn were built with corral panels.  The gates had a chain latch.  Some mornings, I would find the cows out in the pasture even though I was positive I had left them in their stalls at night.  Finally, I discovered Shug had figured out how to open the latch, by rubbing the chain up and down until she lifted it out.  She then proceeded to teach every other cow and calf as I learned when I watched a 3 day old calf rubbing his head against the chain.  Snaps on the latches became a necessity. 

Then in July, 1990, only two months after Chet died of cancer, Peppermint Pat (my aunts thought the calf would be a heifer) was born with bovine virus. I couldn't bear to lose anything, not even a tomato plant, much less a calf after having just lost Chet. My vet came morning and night, each time doing something for Pat although I never realized until much later that there is nothing you can do for bovine virus --- the calf either survives or not. The vet came because he knew I needed him to be there.

The bovine virus stunted Pat's growth and he battled a damaged immune system all his life, but he had Shug's positive outlook on life and lived each day to its fullest. When the tornado wiped out the farm in 1993, I took my 38 sure that with the destruction, an animal would be injured. I quickly found Diala, and Shug and everyone else but Pat. Everyone was fine -- scared but uninjured although the barn, house and everything was destroyed. Where was Pat? I found him chewing his cud in the shelter of a shed that was still standing. He seemed to say, "That was some storm, wasn't it." Pat, too, was just fine.  Strangers made their way over the debris and downed power lines and helped me get all the animals in a make shift fence.  I merely picked up a piece of baling twine, called Shug, and led her inside the fence -- everyone else followed. 

I took an AI class so I could breed the cows myself. When the dairy farmer who was the semen distributor came, he spotted the squeeze chute and said he was glad I had it. "Why? I never use it." "Where do you breed your cows?" "In their stalls." "How do you get them in a stall?" "Call them." "What do you call them." "By their name." He could not believe each cow would come when called until I had them all come into their stalls in the barn. When it was time to AI, I merely haltered the cow, loosely tied her to her feeder, put in some feed and bred her. No one ever kicked. And I "fathered" many calves. 

Sugar Bear

One of the AI bulls I used was Cash Flow, because he threw small calves. Sugar Bear, a bull calf, was by Cash Flow and born in January, 1993, just months before the tornado. For some reason, I didn't think Shug was pregnant and Bear was a surprise. It was a cold morning and when I looked out to the pasture, there was Shug with a large black spot on the ground. It was Bear. He was tiny and wet and cold. Shug let me lift him into the wheel barrow and followed us to the barn where I massaged him with towels to warm him. He soon was up and nursing. But in a couple of days, he was sick. Bear was so tiny, that he simply couldn't handle all of Shug's rich milk. The vet put him on electrolytes, with no milk, then gradually adding a bit of milk as he could tolerate it. When the vet said, I would have to milk Shug while Bear couldn't have her milk, I was shocked. "Milk a beef cow?" Of course, Shug turned out to be easier to milk than Becky, the Jersey. And Angus milk is superb. Bear, too, inherited Shug's temperament and became a herd bull.

Rebuilding the house and cleaning up the farm after the tornado was all consuming and I didn't have time to AI. Candy had one bull calf, Snickers, by a friend's Angus bull in 1992. When Candy wouldn't settle by AI, she spent a fun summer and fall at the farm with the bull who managed to get all the other cows pregnant except Candy. The vet could find nothing wrong, but she never settled. Snickers had Shug and Candy's disposition and became a herd bull.

Shug and Candy enjoyed life on their 5 acre pasture and swimming in the cat fish pond in the hot summers. Both were easy keepers, only needing hay in the winter but they got feed and treats anyway.  They both loved to be groomed and cool hose offs in the summer.  Shug would always talk to tell me how much she enjoyed being brushed.  Both loved to have under their necks scratched and would stretch out their necks in delight.  I always combed Shug's forelock.  A lady loves to be pampered and well groomed.

The year after the tornado, I noticed something was wrong with Shug. She was laying down more, and could barely walk when she was up.  As I had lost several cows to bovine leukemia, the vet's first thought when I called was leukemia. He had the two-day sale and couldn't come to take a blood test to confirm his phone diagnosis. On Sunday afternoon, I turned Shug and Candy out into the lush front yard for what I thought might be Shug's last time. When I went to check, I found Shug by the shop. She LOUDLY talked to me and held up her left front foot. When I checked her foot, I found a 5" piece of wire which must have been debris from the tornado. It took pliers to pull it out. I raced to the vet's office at the stockyards and was so excited that Shug was going to be OK, I didn't put the Bronco in park before I started to get out. He prescribed antibiotics and of course, Shug was soon just fine. I'm sure Shug thought it took me an awful long time to find the wire especially when she kept trying to tell me.

It was ten years later, last summer, when Shug, now in her 20s, with a severe arthritic limp, was in the same spot when I fed at night as she was in the morning. The day before she had been at the back of the pasture in the morning and up by the pond in the evening -- definitely mobile. I carried a bucket of water from the barn, and she drained it and several more. I called the vet who gave her banamine. After several days of banamine, Shug moved to the top of the pasture hill, where the trees provided cool shade and the grass was lush --- and the only place without water. She hated shots and when she wouldn't let me give her banamine, I decided Shug knew best.

I hauled water to her in the water canisters I had used for trail rides. Some days Shug would take her meals lying down but usually she got up to eat. Cows spend a lot of time lying down. I was always amazed at how far she would have moved from where she had been fed. She even went up and down the hill when there was a cool day to graze in the lush clover by the pond. But mostly, she stayed on the top of the hill with the cool breeze and shade and a view of the entire farm. When I went to Aachen, Joe, a teen ager who works at the feed store and has cows and goats, came each morning and night to care for Shug. He even groomed her.

Last fall, I knew I had to get Shug to the shelter of the barn and where I could get her water in winter. I had help on a Saturday to build her a corral panel paddock with access to half the barn. We couldn't believe Shug made it from the hill top to her new paddock without a rest but she did. She loved her paddock but refused to go into the barn, except the one storm when she stayed out in the rain by the round bale but after dinner she was cold, wet and temps were headed for the teens. She haltingly made it to the barn where she found her empty feed pan and insisted on more feed. I fed her triple her normal feed -- she needed the extra to warm up.

As soon as it was half way decent weather, she wanted back outside. Despite the mild winter -- only a few overnight snows that quickly melted within days, this winter was hard on Shug and her arthritis.

She finally told me, she couldn't take it any longer.  Her last day, the sun came out and it warmed to 50s. A beautiful day for a beautiful lady.

Shug is buried on the hilltop where she spent her last summer. I wish I could quit crying.  

What a grand lady, Shug has been.




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