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This Little Tick of Mine 

The Black Angus cattle with the yellow ear tags have been looking at me. The image is of one of Louise Arnold’s oil paintings entitled Curiosity. Her husband, Niall Kirkwood sent me a set of the greeting cards she had produced from her work.

I remember my father’s Black Angus cattle looking at me in just the same way. They were always curious and would come a little closer than felt necessary. Like maybe they were all a little far-sighted and had to get just a bit closer to determine what exactly they were seeing.

The sun on their backs would reflect and reminded me of the phrase, “so black they appear blue,” that I had heard Cherokees exclaim at times when describing colors.

When my father’s father first came to Indian Territory from Missouri on his way to his first position after medical school, he would have passed through hundreds of miles of tallgrass prairie. The prairies nearly emptied of bison after the slaughter of the mighty beings. Edward Bates Frayser entered Indian Territory and passed through lands he would later make use of and later yet come to possess. He could see the potential. But the gatekeeper of the grass were the tribal nations whose lands these had come to be. As he came to marry his first Cherokee wife, leasing the lands for a career as a cattleman became possible and would be profitable.

There were many trips to Mexico to purchase longhorn cattle and with train tracks crossing in Vinita at a junction, it was an easy decision to relocate with Mary to live and become a cattleman. That is how he came to lease the lands and later purchase the land beneath my feet and how I came to be here on it.

It is funny how cattle were central. And how funny now that not a single product made from cattle or any other mammal can I now consume.

The simple little Lone Star Tick bite last summer, took steak off my table, no more Sonic Burgers, no more mutton stew or beef and hominy soup. No fry bread made with Blue Bird Flour and cooked in lard. It took about 6 months to narrow down the possible causes of the skin lesions I was suffering from, until finally a Physician’s Assistant at the Cherokee Nation’s Vinita Clinic diagnosed it as Alpha Gal, the tick bite allergy to mammal products.

So, as I look at that image of Curiosity by Louise Arnold, I see cattle wondering how many people will be exposed to those Lone Star ticks in the future and what will be the future of the cattle industry and how will that change the course of the world as we look at the climate change we face. Could those little ticks affect enough people that the cattle industry is diminished? And then the agriculture system may have to realign and grow food for people and not just for feed for animals we consume? What if reducing the number of cattle changes the amount of methane gas released to the atmosphere and the climate can recenter and we save the planet from the catastrophic changes the next generations can face?

On this little plot of land, I am focused to bring back the tallgrass prairie. I will be growing more of the food I consume, yes, more vegetables and looking at alternate sources of protein and remembering a bean and a grain are a protein. So, the Angus cattle may be curious but they do not have to fear being eaten in this little house on the prairie.   

 Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim


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