Steve appears to be slowly but surely self-destructing before my very eyes. His last child-support check bounced. Despite his earnest assurances two weeks ago that he had refinanced his truck loan in his own name and it was all taken care of, when I asked someone at my credit union to confirm that for me yesterday she said that no, the loan is unchanged and mine is still the primary name on the account. Steve has also mentioned several thousand dollars in credit card debt, and I suspect that when he has maxed out his current card he will simply acquire another one and keep going. Three out of the past four days he has not gotten home early enough for the kids to go see him, and I don’t think it’s work that’s keeping him out late.
And the big one…yesterday he told me that after the first of the year he will be selling all his cows and getting out of the cattle business. If it’s true, this is mind-boggling. The whole time we were married Steve saw himself as first and foremost a cattleman; even in the dry years when it made no sense to run a large herd and we were losing thousands of dollars hay-feeding them, getting Steve to sell a single head of breeding stock was next to impossible. And the cows have always been His Thing; despite all his lip service to the contrary I never had any real say in how the business was run. It all had to be done his way, because he was The Cowboy and I was just a girl.
Well. In all honesty, this will complicate things for me, maybe a lot. Steve has the truck and the stock trailer and all the cowboy friends who know how to rope calves for branding and castrating, and he always handled finding a fresh bull every few years so the herd doesn’t become inbred, and there’s probably a dozen other crucial details that he never troubled my pretty little head with.
To remain in the cattle business without him I will have to completely restructure the way we’ve been doing it, is what I’m saying. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if I can pull it off; I’ve thought all along that Steve was running a mighty inefficient system based on hundred-year-old traditions that don’t make much sense in this day and age.
Right now, between the global food shortages, the skyrocketing cost of corn (that puts a heavy squeeze on big commercial feedlots), and the surging interest in organic, locally-grown food, I think this is an IDEAL time to be raising natural grassfed hormone-free beef. If I can find enough local buyers I can even bypass the (very far away) livestock auctions completely and do my part for the environment while I’m at it. And with Steve apparently in full crash-and-burn mode I will absolutely need to have a backup income and the sooner the better.
It’s kind of scary for me, but in a good way. It will require me to stretch myself in new directions and take some risks, but if I can make it fly it’ll be so worth it. I’ll not only be that much closer to supporting myself and the kids, I’ll be helping others in the local community who want organic, cruelty-free meat. I’ll need to make new, preferably non-Silkotch-related connections: people who have trucks and trailers and bulls and so on. I might even get really ambitious and form some sort of co-op, where several families can pitch in on fattening, butchering and dividing up a single steer. I totally think there’s a local market for that if I can reach it.
This is big and complicated and slightly intimidating, but if I’m up to the challenge I think it could turn out to be a real blessing in disguise.
Wish me luck!