My friends Sheila and Curtiss have had many barnyard kids over the years, most notably two huge oxen named Calvin and Hobbes – the latter being lovably ornery and funny. Calvin died a few years ago and today I received the following obituary for Hobbes. I share this with friends because I think it is a good reminder that even an animal the size of an SUV can have a sense of humor and tenderness on par with the most beloved little child…
Despite the fact that we knew it was coming, it is with the heaviest of hearts and even shock that we let you know that we put Hobbes down this afternoon. His grave is right next to Calvin’s, so they are literally and spiritually back together as a team again. His death was peaceful and we sent him on his way with his belly and mouth full of grain. That is right, he died as he lived, which means he died eating.
Hobbes was loved by too many to count. Many stopped by yesterday to pet him and say goodbye. It was interesting because a bunch of the people who stopped neither Curtiss nor myself had ever seen before. They told us stories of driving by the Rt. 5 Ox or the Skunk Cow for years on their way to and from work, always looking to see where he was and what he was doing. They had always admired him from afar and he was a source of comfort, strength or majesty for them. They were thrilled to get to pet him. They were impressed with his coloring and size, but it was his gentleness that stood out. For a being that weighed in the neighborhood of 3,000 lbs. and had horns, he stood for hours while people scratched him…craning his neck just like a dog, so that the person would scratch right on the sweet spot.
Curtiss and I both readily admit that we misnamed the team. Hobbes’ name most definitely should have been Calvin, as Hobbes was the mischievous one. He taught himself how to pull the fence posts out using his horns, thus causing the fence to lay down on the ground. At that point Calvin and Hobbes would simply step over the fence on their way to visit the neighbor’s bird feeder (when they were younger) or head for greener pasture (when they were older). Hobbes was also the one who would walk whichever way he wanted back to the barn when Mary Brigid would oxen-sit for us. His way always went by the apple trees which was the way we told Mary Brigid not to go. For the record, many people offered Hobbes an apple yesterday and he refused them all save one…the one that Mary Brigid offered him. When Curtiss would work with them in the woods, Hobbes would be the one who would intentionally put a standing tree between himself and Calvin just for kicks. Hobbes was also the one who bellowed for nights after Calvin’s death, so much so that Curtiss went and slept in the barn with him. Calvin’s death would have been the first time Hobbes had ever been alone in his life. Curtiss and I both know that we were lucky to have these two gentle giants be a huge, both literally and figuratively, part of our lives.
Hobbes is survived by Earl, the barn cat. Earl created a nest in Hobbes’ stall this afternoon in the leftover hay which he has never done before. Curtiss will leave the nest.
For some reason this has been the hardest obituary to write, perhaps it is because I already sent out a notice warning most of you or perhaps it is because he is the last of the Calvin and Hobbes named pets or perhaps it is because it is midnight or perhaps it is because it is still inconceivable to us that he is gone.