INDEPENDENCE – As new releases go, this is the toughest I’ve written. Today, I write to announce the passing of Red Neck Tony, the Texas Longhorn steer that has called Heartland Acres home for almost 12 years. He was near 20 years old, so he has spent the better part of his adult life at Heartland Acres.
Tony came to Heartland Acres in 2007 and lived a carefree life. Being a popular sight along Highway 20, Tony was visible to all who passed by the Heartland Acres campus. Tony had free rein of several pens and pastures and didn’t want for anything. Abundant green grass in summer and plenty of hay in winter, along with his favorite green scoop or two or three of cattle food, along with water to wash it down, and Tony was happy.
Tony was as gentle as he was big. Getting in the pen with him was not as much of a concern of him getting cross or anything but, due to his curious nature, he would always get close to us to sniff us and see if we had any food on us. One day while adjusting his waterer, I had my head stuck in the panel and could hear heavy breathing just behind me. It was Tony sniffing my hair, about three inches away. After getting him to give me a little space I was able finish the adjustment.
School children visiting on a field trip always got a kick out of seeing our large longhorn steer as he lay in his pasture. Most school tours happen mid- to late-morning, which put Tony in one of his usual napping spots on the hill or in a low-lying area of his pasture.
During the fall, Tony loved to get fresh apples from the apple orchard. Getting a handful of fresh apples was a treat for him. Eating out of our hands, his lips barely touched our us as he delicately ate the apples. As I mentioned, he was a gentle creature.
On occasion, I’d have an opportunity to take a visitor to the fence and feed him. No matter the age of the visitor, experiencing Tony up close was a delight, for both the visitor and Tony. For me personally, it was the experience of a guest being close to agriculture in a very personal way. Animals have that effect on us. It is a mutual respect and appreciation for how life is between humans and animals.
As I write this, a call came in from a person passing by who hadn’t seen Tony for a few days and was curious. I appreciated the call, and sharing with them the news that Tony had recently passed brought tears to my eyes to have to break the new. They were just as heartbroken as they always looked for Tony when driving by.
Red Neck Tony will be missed. All of us at Heartland Acres who have loved him as part of our family or had the opportunity to be close to him on a regular basis are missing him.
Our plans for replacing Tony will be addressed next year. Housing and caring for animals year-round is expensive, and we’ll see what we can do. Replacing Tony, in any form, won’t be easy.
In memory of Red Neck Tony, our staff, volunteers, board of directors, and supporters appreciate the kind words we have received with Tony’s passing.
For more information about Heartland Acres, please visit www.heartlandacresusa.com, call 319-332-0123, or visit Heartland Acres on Facebook.