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I can remember strolling the grounds of my grandfather's family farm on a bright Saturday morning, letting the wet dew drops seep through the spaces between my young toes. The farm's crops included strawberries, apples and even a small amount of peaches. As for livestock, there were always twenty to thirty cows, and a handful of chickens on hand. The chickens were used for eggs for the family's consumption, while the cows were mainly sold for their meat.

I really don't remember much of my grandfather. He, in fact, was my step-grandfather (a fact I didn't learn until after his death), a tall lanky man with thick greasy black hair and a toothy smile. He was raised on the farm, but later left home to take up the growing career of a truck driver; a job he stayed at for over 35 years. He was a man from another age, however; he rarely watched television, and believed the only true music was that that could be accompanied by a banjo and/or a tambourine.

That Saturday morning, we strolled together out to where the men from town were rounding up the cattle to be taken away. I wasn't naive about the process; I knew these big dumb brutes (the cows, not the men, although the description really does fit) were days, if not hours, away from an awful death. My grandfather and I watched as two of the men waded into the pen and roped up one of the cows. They pulled her along to the front of the truck, and then herded the rest of the herd into the back of the vehicle. After the had all been loaded, that first cow was then led up the ramp.

We had apple-rhubarb pie. We rode on the tractor. We played with the dog. Hours passed.

I was riding the old farm bicycle around the grounds when the cattle truck returned just before dinner. Three men hopped out of the truck; after some chortling with my grandfather, they opened the back of the truck and let out that solitary cow. I knew it was the same because of the colouring and the ropes. The men talked of hard liquor and Euchre games for a few minutes more, then drove off in their lumbering truck.

Why'd they leave that one cow? Ain't it good for meat? I asked my grandfather.
That there's a Judas, a Judas steer, he answered.

He explained that a Judas steer (or just "Judas") is a special member of a herd. The herd usually has one cow or steer that is "trained" or calm enough to lead the rest of the cows into the slaughterhouse without help of human "encouragement." I can imagine that if I were a cow, I wouldn't go readily into a building reeking of death. However, if I saw a trusted member of my herd going in first, I might be more easily persuaded. After all of the herd had been led into the slaughterhouse, they would extract the Judas steer and return it to the farm for future use. It is most obviously named after Judas Iscariot, the apostle of Jesus Christ that betrayed the "Son of God" with a simple kiss, revealing Jesus' identity to the awaiting Roman guards who would arrest him and later crucify him. These cows could easily see the inside of a slaughterhouse up to a dozen times before being killed themselves, unaware which trip in which they would lead their fellow cows to their death would be its last.

I miss my grandfather, sometimes.

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