From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

Holy Cow

In 1978, my car needed some mechanical work that I could not do myself. Since the garage I had been taking my car to had closed, I was faced with the daunting task of finding a good, honest mechanic. I was worried, given the—perhaps undeserved—reputations of mechanics as rip-off artists. Luckily, my friend Dave gave me a recommendation: D’s Auto Repair.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the owner of D’s was a mechanic who had worked on my car several years earlier. Back then, he was an employee at a gas station near my house. I never really spoke to him that much before, but I knew that his work was good.

I filled out the paperwork for the repair and waited while D took a phone call from another customer. As I sat there, I looked around the small office to keep myself occupied. A framed newspaper article caught my attention. The headline read: “Local Dairy Farmer Kills Whole Herd.” The article was about the actions of a fifth-generation dairy farmer during the tainted milk scare in Michigan several years earlier. Apparently, dairy cows were becoming infected with a disease that was affecting the milk supply. The situation had become serious enough that the state decided to test all the cows in Michigan for the disease. The dairy lobby protested and the state was issued a restraining order. It appeared as though it would take months of legal jockeying before the dilemma could be resolved. In the meantime, dairy farmers could continue to sell milk, and also their cows for beef.

The fifth-generation dairy farmer decided this plan wouldn’t work for him and chose another avenue. He paid to have all of his cows tested. Out of the entire herd, only a few were found to be infected. Because no one could assure that the other cows were totally safe, he had the herd killed and buried in a way that would not harm the environment or the water supply. The farmer’s insurance did not cover the loss because the state had not issued an order for him to dispose of the herd. Asked why he did it, the farmer replied, “Because it was the right thing to do.”

I asked D why he displayed the article on the wall. I thought that he might be related to or somehow knew the farmer. He said he had never met the man, but that the farmer was an inspiration to him and set a standard for integrity, trust and honesty. He said that is how he operated his auto repair business and that he would like to have people say the same kind of things about him that he said about the farmer.

I was now doubly impressed, with both the farmer and with D. The next year, on my recommendation, my son started a nine-month mechanics apprenticeship at D’s Auto Repair. I wanted my son to study with D, not only because he was a good mechanic, but more importantly because he was an honest man of high integrity. May the same be said of me someday.

Dennis J. McCauley

Submitted by Charmian Anderson, Ph.D.

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