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"
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
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
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
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
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.