Tracking Pixel

Jefferson Community College Website

My Favorite Bull Jethro

Table of Contents › Essays & Plays ›

My Favorite Bull Jethro

Diane Ramsey

Saturday, November 4th, 1969, was the coldest day of my life. I didn’t have any homework to do for school, so it looked like I had the weekend to myself, or so I thought. I woke up early and the house was so cold I could see my breath. I went downstairs only to hear Mother remind me to do my chores. She liked to divide the housework up amongst us five children. My chore list consisted of dusting the parlor and vacuuming the entire downstairs. Of course, this was after I had already brought down my dirty laundry and cleaned my entire bedroom. When I was finished with the inside, I was to go outside and mentally divide the driveway into five equal parts and shovel my fifth. She said she was instilling responsibility into us. This wonderful lesson never brought me any comfort that the weekend was near. After two long hours I was done and on the couch.

Moments later my father came through the back door by the kitchen. He held a big knife in his hand while he asked Ma for a kid. She told him I was sitting down doing nothing, so he could have me, like I was for sacrifice or something. He stood in front of me and smiled. He stood six foot one inch tall and he was all muscle. He was disciplined military style and his character was as strong as he was. Never once would I ever consider anything other than extreme attentiveness. When he spoke it was as if God himself stood before me. He could make me laugh when I wanted to cry and his wisdom was endless. Gramma told me, “Your father never completed all four years of high school.” Confused over this, I reminded her that he graduated before he went into the army. She said, “I know Dear; he was so intelligent he completed four years of schooling in two years.” I was in 7th grade at the time and couldn’t begin to figure out how to pull this one off.

Dad stood smiling at me, and with a nod of his head, I was beckoned to follow him wherever he was going. I grabbed my coat and walked to the barn, fully trusting his next move. He grabbed the rope off the rusty nail and made a collar around Jethro, my favorite bull. I couldn’t imagine where he was going to go with him on such a cold day. We walked outside and he told me to hold him still. I quietly did as he asked me to do. In a moment, without a word spoken, he slit his throat. Immediately I began to cry out, “Why? Why did you have to kill him!”

Jethro fell to the ground gasping for oxygen. As he lay there dying, I nearly fell to my knees. Dad gently held me around my shoulders and told me it was going to be a long cold winter and this animal would feed our family. He softly asked, “Do you understand?”

He remembered the days when he was in the Korean War, “The Forgotten War.” He was forced to take the lives of men for many reasons. Whatever those reasons were, I’m sure the dead rest heavy on his heart. Nonetheless, he too did as he was told to serve and protect his Country. With a slight tilt of his head, he said, “Taking a life is not something we want to do; it’s something we may have to do.” Forty-one years have gone by since that cold winter day. I’ve never told my husband how it came to be that I could cope so well with being a butcher’s wife.