I knew it was inevitable, but it still took me a bit by surprise. Last night was quite balmy, and I think that the comfortableness of the weather finally let Big Guy feel like he could relax enough to let go.
The road that goes by that pasture leads to an aggregate materials pit and the drivers often stop to chat and tell me how much they enjoy watching the critters in the morning while waiting for the pit to officially open. They have watched his slow decline as much as I have, and they were the ones to initially find him this morning. Apparently, they all got out and "made peace with Big Guy together" this morning after finding him. For some reason, that gives me comfort, to know that others knew he was something special.
Big Guy was a gentle giant. I'm not going to say he couldn't be aggressive when the rut was on and instinct demanded action. I remember well the trouble I had the first fall I was on the farm. We still had another mature bull then, and the sparring matches they would get into when they managed to get along a fence line were epic. He was no slouch when it came to elk bull instinct. But he was also kind and seemed to know when folks were trying to help him. When the little ones would come up to him, he always shared his grain and was never unduly rough with them. When he managed to get wire wound all around his face and antlers during the rut, he let us bring him into the barn and he stood patiently as it was removed.
He was one of the more majestic creatures I've ever known. I have thousands of photos of him. Photos of him being a bull, in all his powerful glory, and being a sage, old man. When that guy looked me in the eye, it was like he knew things.
It's been painful to watch his decline. He's been a shadow of his former self for quite some time now. I noticed about two weeks before the cold snap that he was not as sure of his footing and did not go with the other bulls when they went up into the woods. I knew his time was coming.
But it still never quite prepares you for that moment. Farewell, Big Guy. It was an honor to be your steward. I hope I did right by you. I look forward to seeing you in the eyes of your offspring. That is, after all, what it's all about, right?