Dedicated to Jason, who at a very young age, in farm country and never having heard of vegetarianism, refused to ever eat meat again when he was told where it came from after losing his treasured calf to the slaughterhouse. This poem may be reprinted at any time by anyone, without permission.
4-H Boy, you look so all-American,
Come to the fair with your cow;
Why is there no joy in your eyes, 4-H Boy?
She's a sure bet for a ribbon, your cow,
So obviously well cared for.
I can see hours of brushing in the sheen of her coat,
Hours of laughter in the way she butts your backside,
Lifetimes of love in the way she looks at you.
Why do you cry, 4-H Boy, when no one's around
You're the pride of the family as you lead your beauty into the ring,
Uncles and grandfathers and strangers guffawing with pleasure at the small boy and his big cow;
Why is there no pleasure in it for you?
Why does your limp hand let the blue ribbon drag in the sawdust?
and the same ring transformed into auction floor.
Gone is the patient slow pace allotted for children.
Frenzy is everywhere:
In the auctioneer's babble,
In the voices of animals newly separated from their 4-H friends,
In the rough treatment shown them by auction-house crew,
In the eyes of eager money-changers;
In minutes they change months of mutual devotion into dollars and cents.
Why do you sit so unnoticed in the bleachers now, 4- H Boy,
Shrunken against your father's knee?
Why does your gentle cow look so wild-eyed and bewildered as she's prodded up the ramp to slaughterhouse-bound truck?
Where have you gone, 4-H Boy, while your father collects your money.
The stall is empty now where boy and cow lay
exhausted, napping side by side in the heat.
Why do you go back there, 4-H Boy?
Why do you finger the straw where she last lay,
Alone in the dark, with only her scent left behind?
The author was a pre-vet student, but dropped out of school the week before having to watch the upperclassmen practice on living animals. Most of her poems are auto-biographical.