Saturday, July 13, 2024
Chris Judd

Some have “kind of a mean streak.”

Some 70 years ago after our family had built the new loose housing dairy barn on the hill behind the house, but kept the dry cows and heifers in the old red barn across the road (#8 highway) and the horses and the bull and a few pigs in the old horse stable, there were still a few chickens roaming around the yard too, and some nests on the wall of a big heifer pen which the hens made more use of in the winter.
There was that one mean old rooster with long “spurs” who kept everyone out of the yard except Grampa who used to tease him, and my dad who the rooster was afraid of. The rooster was a sneaky old lad and one morning he snuck up behind Grampa and flew against his leg driving those long sharp spurs right through Grampas rubber boots and into his leg. After Grampa dislodged the rooster and scared him away, he came to the house for emergency help which Grandma administered while chastising him for teasing the rooster. The next Sunday we had a lovely chicken dinner with all the fixins. I don’t remember ever seeing that rooster again.
On a typical farm like ours, there are always numerous cats both tolerated, loved, and fed to control the mouse and rat population. Sometimes there is a mean old tom-cat that will kill any kitten that he sees. One day my Dad witnessed a tom killing a new batch of kittens. That tom had a very short life after that, and Dad buried both the tom and the kittens together.
For many years, Dad kept a few pigs both for pork and a few hogs to sell if the farm needed a new piece of equipment. Dad liked pigs because they were very intelligent, and most were friendly. The odd “mean” pig would kill new baby pigs. This temperament was never tolerated by Dad. The murderer was quickly given a quick trip to the abattoir. Until A.I. became more widely used and bulls with superior blood lines used by the A.I. center became available, every farm kept a bull. Many bulls became cross at about two years of age and if they were a very good bull that threw beautiful calves that turned into excellent milk producers, they were tolerated but watched very closely until a better, new bull could be raised or purchased. Even if the bull seamed to be very quiet, they were never trusted, kept in a very strongly built bull stall, and always was fitted with a strong ring in his nose and always handled by at least two men. All older farmers can tell you stories about farmers who were severely injured or killed by a bull.
Grandma’s brother-in-law was gored by a bull and succumbed to his injury. Grampa's brother was severely injured by a bull at the Shawville Fair. My dad only escaped death because the Jersey bull that rubbed him up and down against the horse stable wall happened to have horns wide enough apart that Dad (young and thinner then) could fit between the bulls horns. One of the times that the bull wiped Dad up the wall, Dad put a hand on each horn and before the bull wiped down, Dad pushed up strong enough that he went right up and over the bull’s back. Dad escaped with only a few bruises that took long enough to heal that he remembered to NEVER again get in front of a bull.
Most of our family have had broken ribs, a concussion, or some other injury caused by either a bull, a heifer, or a cow when their attitude changed from nice to mean. Our farm has always had women or girls to work around the dairy herd because girls have a better understanding about the special needs of animals that few men have. Because on our farm there are always girls working with the animals, for generations now, we have no tolerance for anything but mild-mannered animals even if they are superior in production or conformation.
From when I was a kid in school, I have found it much more fun being around kind people than bullies. I didn’t give it much more thought than that until once when I attended a going-away party when dozens of neighbours gathered to show appreciation and wish the very best in their next adventure in life. I was sitting beside a lady who had been married twice, widowed twice and had a lot more life experience than me. During our conversation about neighbours, she mentioned that even though some people have the same last name, some of the family have a “mean streak” that surfaces occasionally.
I still always give everyone that I meet the benefit of the doubt. Their true colours will come out later. After I started researching my family history about 20 years ago, I began to realize that what that lady who sat beside me was talking about. Sometimes that “mean streak” gene may go back to before some families with the same name immigrated to Canada many generations ago. Many couples have moved from one province, country, or continent because when they married, it wasn’t to the same religion, race or language, but they turned out to be good people.
Most people react to stress differently. I once had a kind, generous family member who had trouble accepting a death in the family and usually tore a strip off somebody at that time. There was no particular reason or who it might be, it just seemed like a way to relieve stress or pressure that couldn’t be accepted.
Life would be very boring if everyone was the same but I wonder if some marriages don’t last because couples just didn’t know each other or their families before they said “I do.”
With todays crisper technology, mean-ness could be eliminated from the human race, but would some country with a mean leader just develop an entire country of mean people who would make a ruthless and traitorous army to take over the world? Choose your future leaders and life partners wisely.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations. gladcrest@gmail.com

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