Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cattle farm of your dreams

Yesterday was our anniversary.  It's the 26th, which doesn't seem very special, but last year, the big 25, we somehow never had time for the big splash.  So this year we decided to do one simple thing - a little road trip.  Just a day trip.  And seemingly against all odds, we took it.  
Have you ever met any Highland cattle?  We never thought we would; we just admired them, posing happily at the beginning of the BBC series "Hamish McBeth," much like the moose in "Northern Exposure."  When we saw those bangs, we were hooked.  
But last year there was a stand at the ethnic festival that offered a chance to eat grilled Highland cattle patties, which we passed up.  But the farm was nearby, and it billed itself as raising its beasts in a way that sounded good to me, so we filed away "Oz Highland Farm" in our heads as a possible destination.  And today we went.  
This farm has been in this Scottish family for generations, but the Topeka suburbs are creeping up on it.  Still, it's totally unfussy - no sign, just a multicolor crowd of shaggy beasts grazing out by the fence.  We drove in, not knowing if we'd be welcome. 
Well, John and Debbie Jenkins love to talk about their cattle.  They breed them for gentleness so they can walk about with them, and they encourage calm.  John and I bonded over a mutual dislike of red cedar trees (invasive and smelly!), and he is delighted by the Highlands' interest in chewing them up.  That helps him keep his prairie just the way it ought to be.  
They knew we didn't know much about cattle, so they told how to tell a male from a female (besides the obvious, the females' horns turn up; the males' are more prosaic), and they told about the different colors.  Debbie said they like to have the young ones present when the moms give birth, so they won't be so scared when it's their turn.  All the cattle have numbers, but only the ones who will not be meat get names as well.  
When we were leaving, I stopped to buy some hamburger meat, and Debbie charged me nothing for a huge package.  We've decided to go to this year's Highland Games so we can visit their concession there.   
(If you're a vegetarian, you might stop here, if you've made it this far.)  I asked Debbie to recommend a place to eat, and she suggested the barbecue place in Auburn, the town up the road.  It was behind the Phillips 66, she said - she didn't say it was just a door in a blank wall, with Visa and MasterCard signs on it.  But it smelled right.  Linda, the proprietor, said if we waited a bit the ribs would be ready; they were done, but not falling off the bone enough to suit her yet.  Echo said they were well worth the wait; I found the barbecued turkey the best I'd every had, just on a buttered, grilled bun.  Linda was the gruff type, but she was pleased with Echo's incoherent mmmm's.  Especially when we decided to go for the strawberry rhubarb pie, because it was our anniversary.  Mmmmmmmm.
A stop at the Kansas History Center topped off the day.  I won't tell you all, you poor patient dears, but I'll tell you that the Indian dwelling made of straw bundles was worth the trip, and the whole steam train that they built the building around.  It may lack the sense of humor that the Minnesota History Center has, but you can't have everything.  Did you know that your 60's dashiki or your Fisher Price farm set could be in a museum?

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