Amy's friend Sara Reid, whose family owns a cattle ranch near Ordway, Colo., invited us down this weekend to see the ranch and witness the calf branding. The ranch is only a few hours drive from Denver, but it's a world away. It's wide, wide open spaces out there. Turning off I-70 onto highway 71 at Limon, the sign says "Next services 75 miles". Sara's parents Janelle and John treated us to a fantastic meal when we arrived. Of course, beef was on the menu. On Saturday morning after another filling meal, we took Andrew and Elizabeth to see the animals, along with Sara's neice and nephew, Maggie and Shane, who are the same ages and Andrew and Elizabeth, respectively. Maggie was our tour guide, and the first stop was the chicken coop. They have a few dozen chicks that are several months old and the kids enjoyed chasing the around the coop. They also enjoyed sitting in the cab of the John Deere tractor, petting the horses, and feeding the cows some hay. Later in the morning we watched as the Reids and their friends roped, branded, immunized ear-tagged, and de-horned, a bunch of calves. I didn't realize the de-horned the little things - it looks painful. After the horn buds are off, they squirt a bit of linseed oil and turpentine on the wound to slow the bleeding and keep flies off. They used an old bottle chocolate syrup for the squirt bottle. Andrew got to ride a horse, which he thought was great. Elizabeth, who loves to point out horses - both in books and when she sees them for real - was a bit overwhelmed by the specter of a big horse at close range, and refused to get on one.
Andrew also may now fully realize the implications of what he's known for a few years - that beef comes from cows. As he asked more and more questions about what they do with the cows, we told him the brutal truth - that eventually they go to a place where people cut them into pieces so we can buy the meat at the store. He pondered that reality in silence for a minute, then went back to playing. He still eats meat.
Saturday afternoon we drove another 90 minutes or so to Pueblo - observing a whole lot of boarded-up store fronts and run down housing along the way. Once there we visited Amy's grandmother and great Aunt.