Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Very Bad Cow Day

This is a story that made me a legend in my community... for awhile anyway. It's a long story, but bear with me, 'cause... just 'cause.

When people around here would start to complain about how horrible their day/week/month had been, they'd actually get interupted with "Let me tell you about Jace and his bad cow day." No one could hold a candle to it and stick to the truth. At the time I owned a gunshop and I had a number of people that came and asked to hear the story. That's the only reason they were there. It had reached near epic proportions in this farming community.

I've always been able to sort out what bit of humor I could find in any situation. Now sometimes it took a few days, but I found it, and when you've got a lot of cows, friend... you need humor.

Now before I go further I need to let you know how much I love my cows. They are treated wonderful, they get plenty to eat, I don't allow cattle prods to be used on our farm, the whole gamut. I love my cows, so please don't jump to conclusions here. This is true farm life and death. Real farm life.

This all took place in March of 1994 BS (before Sally). I was running about 140 head of brood cows and calving season was in full swing and it had already been a tough one. I also had the flu. Not just any flu, but the kind where you retch about every third step you take and you wanna die flu. I had got up early this particular morning to go check the cows and hoping that everything was just fine and dandy so I could go back to the house and go to bed. Nothing was fine. Nothing was dandy. I wouldn't see the bed for quite some time.

I got to the pasture where the cows were and a young, second calf cow had toppled over into a deep ditch while trying to have a calf, landed in a stupid position... and gave up. Just laying there like you'd shook her out of a Yahtzee cup. The only safe way to pull a cow around without injuring her is with a loose rope halter around her head and there was no way I could get her up out there without turning her around first. This cow probably weighed 900 to 1000 pounds or so. I went up to my friend James' place and enlisted him to help me wrestle the ol' girl around. We pulled her up out of there with my truck, pulled the calf out of her which was stillborn.... and she promptly prolapsed her uterus... and she appears to be paralyzed in her back hips from the whole ordeal.

I stood there looking at the cow, looking at James, looking at the cow, looking at James. Vomit. I call my Vet. John my vet comes and cleans her uterus up and puts it back inside her, and throws three stitches across her vagina to hold it in place until everything gets back to normal for her.

While the vet is there I tell him I've got a calf that has the scours (diarrhea)and I can't get it dried up. John looks at the calf and says he'll take it back to the clinic with him and get him on an IV to replenish his fluids and he'll probably be alright.

Day 2.

I'm feeling pretty rough with the flu, the paralyzed cow can't get up. I hook her up to a hip hoist and raise her up and pour several gallons of warm water on her rear end trying to get things working again for her.... THEN, I go over the hill and see an older red cow that has double prolapsed. This means that she has insides sticking outside of both her rectum and vagina.


I call the vet. "Sorry he's out, call back at 1" Okay. I call the vet back but now through some miracle from God... has healed herself. Prolapses are fairly common on older cows in the third period of gestation. It just happens. Double prolapses, on the other hand, are a rare treat. *sigh* The vet says "don't worry 'bout the red cow, how's the one that's paralyzed?" We discuss her at some length and he says just keep raising her up with the hip hoist and doing the warm water thing and she "might" come around, but don't hold your breath.

Then the vet says, "oh, by the way... your calf with scours died this morning. I always feel better when I can throw some money at 'em before they keel over.

So... things are pretty damned tough at the Weber farm right now. I get in my old green chore truck and go back to check on the paraplegic cow.

Here is where things really start to snowball.

She has arranged herself onto her back, feet in the air. To any of you that have dealt with cows you know this as "So long, I gotta go die now" pose. I put her back on her stomach, get her legs all tucked under her natural like to keep blood flowing to 'em, feed and water her. She wants none of it. I go back in a couple of hours and she's on her back once again reaching for cow heaven and the Pearly Gates. I put her back on her stomach just because I'm starting to just be robot farmer.

Now it starts to rain. Just a spring shower, nothing bad. I go back up to the pasture at dark and check the cows and make the decision to put her down and end her misery, 'cause she's not gonna recover. I take her body to the woods where we bury stuff.

Feeling lower than whale crap, I head to the house. I'll get up in the morning and it'll be a new day and life will be wonderful with bluebirds and puppies and apple pie for every meal.

Tomorrow comes and... You know how you say sometimes "things couldn't get worse"? They just got worse. The cow that had the elusive bobbing double prolapse? Something went horribly wrong for her in the few hours since I'd seen her last. She is dead. She is dead as dead can be. She is mortified with death. She's unhealable dead. She has chosen to fall to her death laying on the Amoco pipeline right of way that crosses my farm.

I'm beside myself, I've had about all I can take. I check the rest of the herd, go home, change clothes and go to town for the rest of the day. No reason. Just to leave the farm for a few hours.

I get back home and it's almost dark, it's rained about 5 inches today, it's beyond muddy, it's a total mess and I need to drag the red cow to the burial place in the woods. I hook her body to the back of the green truck and head off with her, tearing ruts in my pristine pasture, adding insult to injury. I get her to the woods, launch the truck thru the trees, unhook the chain, back up a bit.... and I'm stuck. I mean I'm really freakin' stuck.

I'm 3/4 of a mile from a road, it's pouring rain, I don't have a raincoat and I want to be anyone else on earth. Hell, I'd have been Rosie O'Donell right then if I could've. Thinking I've got nothing to lose, I give the old green truck pure, unadulterated, kick it in the seat of the pants... hell. I sock it down into low range, U-joints rattling, jumping up and down, I got rooster tails of mud coming off all 4 wheels 20 or 30 feet in the air... and it's not moving.

I get out of the truck to survey what exactly has happened. It's not really down in the mud that bad... like just a few inches. What the heck is going on? I walk around to the back of the truck. I look down and see the back end of the red cows dead carcass sticking out from under the back of the green truck.

I get down in the mud and look.

I have no idea or explanation how it has happened, but the cow carcass is tangled up under the truck in such a fashion there is no way on God's green earth that I'm gonna get her outta there at this point. So I walk back to the front of the truck, rain coming down even harder now... and I notice a little wisp of smoke coming up between the fender and the hood of the truck.

I think to myself "Now that's odd" and I raise the hood of the truck to see what's what.

For a tiny split second of time, when I first raise the hood, I see a little fist sized ball of flame on the engine. When the oxygen from the outside air hit that little ball of flame... I have a blazing inferno.

The whole engine is now on fire.

I run to the door and grab my cattle grip and my rifle and throw them out into the woods and pull on a pair of insulated leather work gloves. I go back to the fire and try to pat the thing out. Gloves on fire. Throw the gloves off. Go into a panic spin where I nearly get dizzy enough to fall over. Go to the bed of the truck and look for anything on earth to fight fire with. 2 5 gallon buckets, each standing up with about 5 inches of rain and ground corn in 'em. I go back to the front and DRIBBLE that measly amount of water on the engine fire and somehow get it put out with the end of the second bucket of rain water/corn.

I get back in the truck and just sorta reflect on my life up to this point. I'm a pretty decent guy, not done too much that was real wrong... I dunno. *sigh*

I walk the 3/4 mile in pouring rain, sinking several inches with every step, with just a sweatshirt, jeans and some boots. I get home, take a shower and sleep on the couch.

Morning comes and I go to my friend James' house again.

Me: "James, my truck is really stuck and I need you to come pull me out"

James: "Where you at?"

Me: "South end of the Roberts place... out in the woods"

James: Good Lord man, what in heavens name are you doing out in the woods with your truck after a rain like that?"

So.... I tell James the story. His wife Sandy is a somewhat overweight gal with lots of jiggly parts on her. She's pulled a chair up and is dabbin' at her eyes with a Kleenex. Laughing, jiggling.

I tell them my truck is stuck in the woods, on top of a dead cow, and then it burned up... in a rainstorm.

We get the truck out, the rest of the calving season was pretty much uneventful, profitable and happy. For about a month I couldn't walk into the feed store, the lumber yard, or anywhere without all conversation stopping and then getting stares of pity.

My friend Steve calls one evening and tells me he was talking to a guy and this fellow was telling him his woes. Steve said he stopped him and says "Let me tell you about a guy with real problems" The guy looks him in the eye and says "You gonna tell me about Jace?"

Legends rise and legends fall. I'll take mundane any day.



Jerry said...

Well Jace, that is definitely one of the worst couple of days I've ever heard of. Guess I'm not surprised that reached "legend" status.

Fletch said...

And a living legend, too. I feel your pain, still, and my face hurts from laughing! Just think what stories you'll be able to tell when you're old and gray, if you live that long.

Darla said...

Aren't you glad Sally came along and saved you from all that! You always tell a great story. And they aren't fairy tales either! I hope you have a long life and keep the stories coming!


Vicky said...

Okay, you can't read this and eat spaghetti. Ask me how I know! ROFLOL. After that brouhaha, it's a wonder you're not a vegetarian!

debijeanm said...

If you wrote that as fiction you'd be ridiculed until you never wanted to write again. Here's hoping that's your quota of "bad cow day" for years to come.