My Dad, the Master Calf Castrator
Modern methods have replaced this grisly ritual on most big farms, but nothing makes me more nostalgic than the thought of gathering bloody bovine nutsacks on a warm June day.
Photos by Laurie Wiart
I had one job: get the nuts in the bucket before they were squashed. That’s what being on bucket duty was all about. I would follow Dad (who’s always on nut duty) with a dirty orange pail, and collect the purpley-blue strawberry-sized testicles he’d cut off of the not-quite-fully-grown bulls. Bucket duty was suited for a ten-year-old; someone of my size and skill set. I would stay far enough behind to avoid the searing-hot branding sticks, and the flailing limbs of calves and horses and full-grown men. The nuts, stringy and sticky, would wrap themselves on the fence like a poorly executed ladder toss. After the extraction and toss, my dad, six feet and fit, in his fifties, would place the scalpel, red with scrotal blood, back between his false teeth, wipe his hands on his torn second-hand jeans, adjust his always-crooked promo hat, and move on to the next calf.
The nuts would later be skinned – kind of like when the inside of a grape pops out of its tougher outer …