|On the Edge of Common Sense|
|Russ and the Pirate|
Russ normally would not have kept the heifer he called "The Pirate," but he did. It was one of those chilly 5:30 spring mornings in southeast Idaho. He decided to make a quick heifer-check before he got his youngest kid on the school bus at 6:30. Russ slipped into his handy fashion farm wear (sweat pants, heavy long-sleeve T-shirt and slip-on boots) and drove down to the calving pasture.
Dang! Sure-nuf there was a heifer down in a low spot on her back and bloated. Russ debouched the truck and walked over to her. She was showing no movement, so he gave her a swift kick with his mucky boot. She fired right back and kicked him mid-thigh!
Through teary eyes he recognized the half-crazy, one-eyed witch, The Pirate. Two little cloven hooves were sticking out from under her tail. She lay right in the open gate of the panel alley leading to the calving pen. With the innovative genius often found in farmers, he put a catch rope around her neck, ran it through the last panel, took two wraps around the front tow-hook on the truck, and held the slack with his left arm out the window. The plan was to pull Pirate far enough forward for him to jump out and close the gate.
As Russ told me, "I just love it when a plan comes together!"
He backed up. She popped up. He leaped out and raced for the gate, grasping his sagging industrial sweat pants with one hand and hefted the gate closed with the other! She turned and charged. It was a mighty crash! Pirate hit the gate on her blind side and Russ cracked his Neanderthal brow on the top rail while reaching down to pull up his pants. Fortunately neither was injured. She wheeled and raced up the alley into the self-locking head catch! Picture perfect!
Russ drove the truck down to furnish light. Not having pockets, he stuck two plastic sleeves under his wool cap and grasping his calving instruments he placed the OB chains on the feet and positioned his calf-puller. With the confidence of a heart surgeon he pulled on the plastic sleeves, pulled up his pants and…his diuretic pill kicked in! Whoa! Stop or Go? He cranked on the come-along, the knees appeared, he pulled up his pants, the "Urge-To-Go" meter reached 25…the nose appeared, he pulled up his pants, the UTG reached 50! The head cleared, he spread his legs to keep his pants from falling below his knees, the UTG hit 75! The shoulders, followed by the slick calf, came! It took both hands and all his power to guide the hips through.
The newborn came straight out between Russ’s legs, completely stripping his fashionista farm-wear to his ankles. As he tried to untangle himself from the calf, one of its hind legs shot down a pant leg! Thank goodness the boot slipped off!
The calf trampled him thoroughly and escaped. Russ lay crumbled in a heap, slick with mud, amniotic fluid and fecal material. As a fitting climax, he heard the 6:30 school bus honking. Oh, well, he thought, at least the sun was coming up and, by golly, the UTG had disappeared!
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.