Thursday, February 7, 2013

Charlie Brown, Lead Steer

This is the story of Charlie Brown, a small reddish brown calf born on our farm about 20 years ago. Charlie's mom died when he was only three days old. None of the other cows would adopt him so he became a bottle calf. Our youngest daughter was assigned the task of bottle feeding him twice a day. She was in the fourth or fifth grade at the time and she named him after her favorite cartoon character because... well... he was brown.

Charlie Brown grew up and, much later than he should have, finally abandoned his bottle. He became a steer and joined the herd on the farm. He grew bigger and bigger, but our daughter maintained her affection for CB and admonished her dad, "Be sure you don't sell Charlie Brown!" For some reason, Pa actually listened to her.

Now, I should add here that steers serve no useful purpose on a farm; they are meat animals. It amazed me that Pa agreed to keep Charlie Brown, but his "excuse" was that CB had a purpose. Charlie was the "lead steer." When Pa would call the cattle, CB would lead them up to the barn. This worked great for feeding the cattle or checking on them to be sure nobody was missing, but sometimes Charlie didn't like what happened at the barn. Occasionally, all his friends would be loaded on a truck heading for a feedyard in the west. Poor Charlie was always left behind.

Charlie Brown ate and ate. He grew and grew... and he got smarter and smarter.

Charlie figured out that if he brought the herd to the barn, all his buddies might leave. CB tried a different approach. When Pa would call the cattle to the barn, Charlie Brown started taking them in the opposite direction... to the far corner of the very back field!

But Pa still didn't sell him. He just moved Charlie to a different farm where there was no faraway field. While he had CB on the truck, Pa decided to weigh him. Charlie Brown weighed 2,300 pounds!

By this time, our daughter had gone away to college. Charlie Brown stayed  on the farm even though he no longer served as a lead steer.

Charlie became the star attraction for children who visited the farm. He was a big hit at family reunions.

However, CB must have realized he was a celebrity. He didn't like the paparazzi. He RAN when he saw a camera!

It's hard to run when you're that big! Mostly, Charlie was content to graze with his friends. At 17 years old, he was getting elderly. His teeth were no longer as good and his weight began to drag him down.

An altercation with a much younger bull did him in. Charlie injured his hip.

Winter was coming on and Charlie refused to walk to the barn to get his feed. 

For a while, Pa carried feed to him but he grew worse. Sadly, we knew it was time for Charlie to go.

The next time our daughter was home, we took lots of photos of Charlie with her. We didn't tell her that she was saying good-bye. 

We all miss Charlie Brown so much. He lived a long, long life of luxury compared to most of the steers that come and go on the farm.

We like to say he was "outstanding" in his field!

16x20 oil on canvas
This painting of Charlie Brown now hangs in our dining room. Pa picked out another very gentle steer who has the potential of growing as big as CB. His name is Wayne and you can read more about him later!

I'm linking this post to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. The letter L is for Lead Steer!


  1. Charley sure is big.. your painting is really
    good and I need to thank you for your visit
    to my blog and your sweet comments.

  2. I'm sure that Wayne will never be able to fill Charlie Brown's shoes! Charlie had a good life. Thanks for telling his story!

  3. Oh this was a sweet story! It reminds me of Charlotte's Web and Wilbur the Pig! Your husband had the very best heart! I am glad CB had such a good life on the farm. Thanks for sharing with us today!

  4. It's interesting how farm animals become like family members. That's amazing Charlie Brown lived 17 years, though. Do you have a steer name Linus? =D Linking up from the Alphabe-Thursday classroom. I enjoyed your 'L' post a lot!

  5. I loved this story. You told it so well and with such kindness. Great L post.

  6. What a lovely story. It reminded me a little of Ferdinand the bull in Munro Leaf's story for children :-)
    My post
    was about love this week.

  7. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story with us. I love animals, and when I read about one that has been given the life that CB had it makes me so happy. Just the look on your daughter's face when she visited him tells that she has a very strong bond with him. And, he with her. That huge powerful beast so gentle with her. What a lovely experience for them both. And, that you have a portrait of him now to remember him by is just lovely. A beautiful L post.

  8. Oh bravo! I loved this light-hearted and lovely tale of Charlie Brown!

    This would be such a wonderful children's book!

    I really loved the pictures and the words here!

    Thanks for the smile.