The Oxen Talk with the Calves
T was a clear, cold winter morning, and
the Cattle stood in the barnyard where
Among all the farmyard people, there were none more particular about their food. They might eat in a hurry when time was short, or when the grass was fresh and green, but after they had swallowed it and filled the first of their four stomachs with partly chewed food, they would find some quiet and comfortable place where they could stand or lie easily and finish their eating. To do this, they had to bring the partly chewed food from the first stomach to the mouth again. They called this "unswallowing it," although they should have said "regurgitating."
After the food was back in their mouths again, it was spoken of as their cud, and the stout muscles in the sides of their faces pulled their lower jaws up and down and sideways, and the food was caught over and over again between the blunt grinding teeth in the back part of their mouths, and was crushed, squeezed, and turned until it was fine, soft, and ready to swallow into the second stomach.
Then the Cattle do not have to think of
it again, but while they are doing
quite different, and perhaps forgetting
all about it, there are many nerves and
muscles and fine red
The Oxen were standing by the barn
door, and the Calves were talking about
them. They liked their uncles, the
Oxen, very much, but like many other
world over, they thought them rather
"If I were an Ox," said one, "I wouldn't stand still and let the farmer put that heavy yoke on my neck. I'd edge away and kick."
"Tell you what I'd do," said another. "I'd stand right still when he tried to make me go, and I wouldn't stir until I got ready."
"I wouldn't do that," said a third. "I'd run away and upset the stone in a ditch. I don't think it's fair to always make them pull the heavy loads while the Horses have all the fun of taking the farmer to town and drawing the binder and all the other wonderful machines."
"Isn't it too bad that you are not
Oxen?" said a deep voice behind them.
Calves jumped, and there was the
"I used to talk in just that way when I
was a Calf," said the
"I know I thought so," said the Nigh Ox, who had followed his brother.
"Well, if you wanted to," asked the Red Calf, "why don't you do those things now?" The others wondered how he dared to ask such a question.
"It doesn't pay," said the Nigh Ox. "Do all your frisking in playtime. I like fun as well as anybody, yet when our yoke is taken from its peg, I say business is business and the closer we stick to it the better. I knew a sitting Hen once who wanted to see everything that happened. She was always running out to see somebody or other, and sometimes she stayed longer than she meant to. I told her she'd better stick to her nest, and she said she didn't believe in working all the time."
"How soon did her Chickens hatch?" asked the Calves all together.
"Never did hatch, of course," chuckled the Nigh Ox. "She fooled herself into thinking she was working, and she made a great fuss about her legs aching and her giving up society, but she couldn't fool that nestful of eggs. They had gotten cold and they knew it, and not one of them would hatch."
"Wasn't she ashamed then?" asked the Calves.
"Didn't act so," snorted the Nigh Ox. "Went around talking about her great disappointment, and said she couldn't see why the other Hens had so much better luck."
The Off Ox chuckled. "He told her that
he guessed it might have been something
besides bad luck, and that the next time
she'd better stay on her nest more.
she asked him how many broods of
Chickens he had hatched.
Everybody laughed, and the Calves wondered how the Nigh Ox could think of it without being angry. "It wouldn't pay to be angry," he said. "What's the use of wasting a fine great Ox temper on a poor little Hen rudeness?"
This made them think. They remembered how cross and hot and uncomfortable they often became over very small things that bothered them, and they began to think that perhaps even Calf tempers were worth caring for.
At last the Black Calf, the prettiest one in the yard, said, "Do you like drawing that flat wagon which hasn't any wheels, and scrapes along in the dust?"
"The stone-boat?" asked the Off Ox, "We
don't mind it. Never mind doing our
work. Wouldn't like to pull the binder
with its shining knives and whirling
for whoever does that has to walk fast
and make sudden turns and stops. Wouldn't like
being hitched to the carriage to
carry the farmer's family to town.
to take care of
like Collie, or to grow feathers like
Geese—but we can draw
The Red Calf, who was always running and kicking up his heels, said, "Oh, it's such slow work! I should think you'd feel that you would never reach the end of your journey."
"We don't think about that," answered
the Nigh Ox. "It doesn't pay. We used
though. I remember the time when I
wished myself a Swallow, flying a mile a
The Red Calf and the White Calf spoke
together: "We will always be sensible.
will never lose our tempers. We will
never be afraid to work. We will be
"Might you not better say you will try to be sensible?" asked the Nigh Ox. "You know it is not always easy to do those things, and one has to begin over and over again."
"Oh, no," they answered. "We know what we can do."
"You might be mistaken," said the Oxen gently.
"I am never mistaken," said the Red Calf.
"Neither am I," said the White Calf.
"Well, good-morning," called the Oxen, as they moved off. "We are going to talk with our sisters, the Cows."
After they had gone, the pretty Black Calf spoke in her pleasant way: "It seems to me I shall be an old Cow before I can learn to be good and sensible like them, but I am going to try."
"Pooh!" said the Red Calf. "It is easy enough to be sensible if you want to be—as easy as eating."
"Yes," said the White Calf. "I shall never lose my temper again, now that I am sure it is foolish to do so."
"Dear me!" said the pretty Black Calf. "How strong and good you must be. I can only keep on trying."
"Pooh!" said the Red Calf again. Then he lowered his voice and spoke to her. "Move along," said he, "and let me stand beside you in the cubby while I chew my cud."
"Don't you do it," cried the White Calf. "I want that place myself."
"I guess not!" exclaimed the Red Calf. "I'll bunt you first."
"Bunt away, then," said the White Calf, "but I'll have that place."
"Oh, please don't fight!" exclaimed the Black Calf. "I'll let one of you have my corner."
"Don't you move," cried each of them.
"I want to stand by you." Then they
their heads and looked into each other's
eyes. Next, they put their hard
together, and pushed and pushed and
pushed. Sometimes the
While they were quarrelling in this way,
getting warmer and more angry all the
and losing those very tempers which they
had said they would always keep, a young
Jersey had stepped into the cubby beside
The Black Calf smiled a funny little smile. "They are fighting," said she, "to see which one shall stand in the cubby with me and chew his cud."
The Jersey Calf was a shrewd young fellow of very good family. "Perhaps," said he, "I ought to stay and guard the place until it is decided who shall have it."
"I wish you would," said she.
And that was how it happened that the
two Calves who lost their tempers had a
tiresome, and uncomfortable day, while
another had the very corner which they
wanted. When night came, they grumbled
The Black Calf was right. The only way to be sensible and happy is to try and try and try, and it does pay.