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Déjà vu

Erica Ramsey Louder for Progressive Cattle Published on 13 April 2021

I just finished reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. In this fantastical story, the main character, Addie, was cursed by “the gods that answer after dark” to always be forgotten.

In the course of her long life, she would have months-long relationships that would begin again each morning because she’d been forgotten the night before. Each day she’d “meet” her friends again. Again and again, day after day, those friend would say the same thing when they spoke, and they’d do the same things they’d done the day before. They would tell her each time that she “looked familiar” or that there was “something about her.” Addie lived in a constant stage of déjà vu.

I had my own déjà vu experience the other day and, because I had just finished Addie LaRue, it struck me. I couldn’t help but indulge in remembrance.

For most of us in agriculture, FFA and 4-H have a special place in our memories. I can honestly say that my experiences in FFA defined my career and subsequently my life. If you couldn’t tell by that passionate declaration, youth agriculture is important to me. My oldest daughter, Cora, will turn nine later this year, so she will be old enough to be a fully-fledged junior 4-H member. At the first of this month, she weighed in her first market beef. Impervious to my suggestions, she named her steer, Hershey Syrup. In her words because “he looks black, but when it’s really sunny, he looks kind of brown,” and because “Taybree is bringing a white steer and she named him Vanilla Ice Cream.”

I’ve been helping Cora water Hershey Syrup because she can’t lug the buckets of water to his pen. The other day, after I dumped the bucket into his trough, I reached into his pen and scratched the top of his neck. His head had been in his pan of grain, and at my touch he brought his head up and shook his head as if to push off my hand. When he looked at me, I was fourteen again and I was dumping grain to a steer that “was black but looked a little bit red in the light” that I named Heinz 47 because “he was destined for the dinner plate.” I saw Hershey Syrup and Heinz 47 and all the black steers that came before and would come after. I saw all the weighs-ins, the time spent breaking, the evening feedings, the show rings and the county fairs. Like Addie LaRue meeting her friends for the first time over and over again, I’d met a steer like Hershey Syrup over and over again, and we did the same things together over and over again, each summer following the next until it felt exactly like déjà vu.

It feels strange to be old enough to be the mother of the kid in the show ring and not the kid in the show ring because I swear yesterday, I was that kid in the show ring. It will hit me again in a few years when I see a blonde girl in an ill-fitted FFA jacket but realize it’s not me, it’s her. It might feel an awfully lot like déjà vu, but I believe the very best thing about agriculture is raising your kids in the lifestyle that raised you.

And, if anyone wants a book review on Addie LaRue, I give the dark, introspective fantasy novel 3.5 out of 5 stars.  end mark

PHOTO: Cora and Hershey Syrup. Photo by Erica Ramsey Louder.

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

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