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 laying here on the couch, watching TV. 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 that he had already hit a dead end in trying to get a vet out, during a three-day holiday weekend, I assured him that I would be right over.
I got dressed and drove the mile over 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 requested.
The gentle cow went right in, so I gloved up and proceeded to enter the business end, when 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 stated, “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 proceeded to free a good, black bull calf from the confines of his mother. 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.
They were about to release the cow, when I told them to let me have one more look before she was released (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, and I turned to his wife, who was still, patiently holding the cows tail, and calmly stated, “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 that they were truly blessed to be doing what they love, and in a place that is where they want to be.
Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’