It was almost dark on Labor Day evening when my phone rang, with the caller ID showing a nearby neighbor was on the other end.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just lying here on the couch, watching TV,” I replied. “What’s going on?”
My young neighbor asked if I might come over and look at one of his cows that was having a problem. Assuming he had already hit a dead end in trying to get a vet out during a three-day holiday weekend, I assured him I would be right over.
I got dressed and drove the 1 mile to his corral, where the cow was confined. He proceeded to tell me that her water bag had been out for some time, but the cow was not straining or showing any other signs of labor, even though she was due to calve.
“Well, let’s get her in the chute and see what might be going on,” I said. The gentle cow went right in, so I gloved up and proceeded to enter the business end. She promptly kicked the living daylights out of my right shin. The neighbor’s wife was there, holding the tail, so I was able to catch myself in time to only mutter the words “son of a ... gun.”
After composing myself, I went in again, up to my armpit, turned to the young couple and sadly said, “We’ve got a problem.” All I could feel was a tail and one rear leg. For the next 45 minutes, in the hot and humid air of a late summer night, my neighbor and I took turns trying to retrieve at least one leg, to have something from which to pull.
Eventually we did get one leg out, and then proceeded to free a good black bull calf. Unfortunately, and despite all our efforts to resuscitate the calf, it was no use. The young couple were, of course, disappointed, but understood that this is a tough business on most days.
One more time
They were about to release the cow when I told them to let me have one more look. (I’ve been doing this too long to assume there’s just one). There was another calf presenting itself in exactly the same breech position as the first. “Here we go again.”
About 15 minutes into my work on the second calf, I looked at my friend and myself, both covered in sweat, blood and afterbirth. I turned to his wife, who was still patiently holding the cow’s tail, and calmly said, “You know, we are really blessed to be able to be in this business and live where we do.”
His wife responded with, “Are we?”
“Yep,” I replied. “We could all have high-paying jobs that require us to live in downtown Portland … or Chicago … or Kenosha … or Afghanistan.”
Sadly, the second calf encountered the same fate as its brother, but the cow came through the ordeal in great shape, and I commented, “At least that’s a win.”
Before returning home that evening, the young couple agreed they were truly blessed to be doing what they love, and in a place that is where they want to be.
Crownover farms in Missouri.