Meet Rodney: Sight unseen, a cow’s best friend. - Modern Farmer

Meet Rodney: Sight unseen, a cow’s best friend.

Faced with the helplessness of his blind heifer Rosie, Farmer Rick Friday enlisted this little goat—and stumbled upon a metaphor for a nation divided.

Photography by Sheila Sutton

Rick Friday is no stranger to Modern Farmer: we profiled him back in May 2016 when he was fired after 20 years as the editorial cartoonist for Iowa-based Farm News. Seems taking a stand for small farmers got him in hot water with some big industry players—but only temporarily. In the eyes of many farmers worldwide, Friday was a hero. Just 60 days after his dismissal, a deluge of media and social media forced the newspaper to apologize—and rehire him.

As he continues to cartoon, Rick is also a working farmer in Lorimar, IA with about 100 head of cattle. In a herd that size some just stick out, and that was the case with the rare redhead that was born in April 2017. The feisty heifer had cloudy eyes and, just hours after her birth, the vet confirmed her blindness. The prognosis was poor: little Rosie could not nurse, and most likely would not survive 30 days.

Best Buddies Rodney & Rosie

A Creative Solution

Rick—a self-proclaimed softie—was determined to save his Rosie. He would bottle-feed her, but afterwards she would just run around in circles all day. “It seemed all day, every day, she was looking for a friend,” Rick recalls, “and not just one who’d sneak her inside the house when his wife was gone.”

When teaming her with other cattle didn’t work, an idea came seemingly out of nowhere that would change everything.

A goat. Specifically, Rodney—a cute little fella raised and pampered by two little girls. Alpine male goats are known to kick and head-butt, so the choice wasn’t a natural one. But Rodney was just ready to be weaned from his mother, and Rick though he might attach himself to Rodney.

When Rick and his son (who already owned several goats) brought Rodney home, they thought a bell around his neck would help Rosie keep track of him. Abject failure. The bell scared both goat and calf, who ran away and nearly trampled their owners. Bell removed, Rick shut them in a small pen together for the night. The next morning, they were lying beside each other and then shared a scoop of oats.

Rodney the Hero, immortalized by Rick Friday for Modern Farmer

A Forever Friendship

Within weeks, Rodney and Rosie became inseparable. They ate together. Nuzzled at naptime. Slept together. Played together. Their farmyard antics have given Rick fodder for his cartoons and drawn a social media following nationwide. (After all, there’s something altogether endearing about a kid with an attitude giving his best cow girl the occasional wet willie.)

Beyond the fun and games, though, Rodney is Rosie’s lifeline. During a recent heavy rainstorm, Rick and his wife found Rodney crying from the building where he and Rosie stay. She was gone—and they discovered her caught outside in the rain, running in circles, unable to find her way home. When Rosie finally heard Rodney’s cries, she ran towards him and—once reunited—the crying stopped.

For Rick, Rodney and Rosie are more than an odd couple: they’re a perfect pair at a perfect time in America. He observes, “it’s so easy to focus on the differences that divide us instead of taking the time to share a bite to eat with someone very different from us who, if given the chance, might just end up becoming a best friend. There’s no reason why we can’t all get along like these two do.”

Rodney has just been diagnosed with a genetic disorder that splits his hooves and makes it painful for him to walk. But with biweekly hoof-grinding by Rick and the undying friendship of a blind cow, this kid’s destined for a Rosie future.

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