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By Staff | Apr 20, 2012

The way I see it, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of one Harvey Metzger. I first met Harvey, who dairy farms with his family in northwestern Iowa, a few years back.

To say that the Metzgers are fans of Jersey cattle would be like saying that dogs tend to be furry.

Harvey was regaling me with all the details regarding the goodness of the Jersey breed when he suddenly paused and fixed me with an intent stare.

“You ever eat Jersey beef?” he asked.

That’s how zealots draw you in: they pose a question, usually one to which they already know the answer. I had to confess that I’d never partaken of Jersey beef.

“If you do, you’ll never go back to regular beef,” declared Harvey. “You don’t even need a knife to cut a Jersey steak. You just use the side of your fork!”

Visions of a tender, sizzling, buttery T-bone instantly flooded my brain. Harvey had planted the seed of an idea, an idea that, weed-like, stubbornly refused to die. I soon found myself obsessing over whether or not Jersey beef is all that.

The easiest solution would have been to purchase beef that began life as a Jersey. But we Norwegians never do things the easy way.

I enjoy raising my own food. Be it garbanzos from the garden or a chicken from the coop, the victuals you grow yourself are just, I don’t know, better.

I also like the simplicity of it all. Deep inside the sun enormous gravitational forces cause hydrogen atoms to fuse, producing immense quantities of heat and electromagnetic radiation. This energy zips through space until it strikes chlorophyll molecules in the grass growing in my cattle yard.

The chlorophyll uses water and air and sunlight to manufacture carbohydrates that are highly salubrious for ungulates. The next thing you know – ta-da – a sizzling steak sits on my plate.

I’m skipping a few steps regarding such things as the rumination process and liver functions. All that matters is this equation: grass + steers = yum.

But I knew my wife would be opposed to procuring steers. After exiting the dairy business nearly a decade ago, she has grown fond of our cattle-less lifestyle. I would need to be slow and stealthy, not unlike a camel nosing into a tent.

I began by cleaning out our old gambrel barn. When my wife asked why I had tackled such an onerous task, I explained that it was something that simply needed to be done as the rotting manure would eventually rot out the barn’s sills. She bought, er, I mean, agreed that this was indeed a good idea.

Then I began to repair the fence around the cattle yard. This was a bit more problematic to explain.

That particular patch of ground, I told my wife, has been a cattle yard since my great-grandfather Charlie homesteaded here well over a century ago. Yes, there are no cattle or horses out there now; but you never know, and it’s best to be prepared for every contingency.

This rationalization seemed to pass muster despite her normally skeptical nature.

By far the most difficult part would be the actual installation of cattle in our cattle yard. Finding a source of Jersey steers wasn’t the problem; the challenge was sneaking them past my wife.

I ran several scenarios through my head. I finally decided to tell her that I had found a trio of Jersey steers who were homeless and alone and they followed me home and they’re so cute and can I keep them, ple-e-e-ase?

I promise to take real good care of them!

If that plan didn’t pan out, I would simply blame Harvey for starting it all.

But I didn’t need to deploy my unassailable line of logic because one day my wife turned to me and said, “Now that you have the barn all cleaned out and have fixed the fence, we should get some steer calves. I’m thinking that three would be a good number.”

Whoa. I knew my wife was psychic, but this was utterly spooky. She later revealed that she had overheard me talking excitedly to a friend of ours about enjoying Jersey beef come fall. Wives have awfully acute hearing when they suspect that something’s afoot.

So now I can gaze out the window and see a bevy of bovines grazing in our cattle yard.

There are a lot of things right with the universe when beeves are chewing their cud: Earth’s orbit remains stable, the laws of thermodynamics still hold.

The only way one might possibly improve this tableau would be if some colorful chickens were pecking about. I wonder how Harvey feels about Wyandottes?

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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