I read somewhere that the average “practice life span” of a large animal vet is eight years. After they quit, they go into small animal practice, government work, industry, university, research or some other less hazardous profession.
Every L.A. veterinarian can tell “war stories” that curl your hair. Stockmen the world over suffer from the same hazards. Anybody who has handled much livestock has been bit, stomped, kicked, stepped on, gored, butted, rammed, spit on, run over or humiliated. All of which brings me to my story.
I had been spending my nights in the calving barns, sleeping in a bedroll and getting up every hour or two to perform some miracle obstetrical procedure. I was tired to the bone and my eyes were sunk back in my head like a scouring calf.
The weather was cold, clear and wet the morning I went out to get a newborn calf from the little pen where he’d spent the night with his mother. As Albert opened the gate to let me in he cautioned, “She’s a little ringy, Doc.” I stepped back and flattered myself against the neighboring pen so she could come out into the alley. She breached the gate, spied me and charged! She caught me in the ribs as she picked up speed and off we went down the alley. I was somehow balanced on her head like a hood ornament on a Mack Truck.
Three days later I was putting a heifer back in her little pen. She was a new mother and a little wobbly as I walked her up the alley. Juan, the new exchange student from Chihuahua, didn’t get the gate closed in time. She came back out. I ran her back and forth several times but she wouldn’t go in. Finally she decided she’d had enough of my foolishness and got on the fight.
She came at me and I set out on a high lope down the alley. My five buckles were splashing through the mud puddles and I was high steppin’ like a drum major. The heifer was right on my tail. I reached the gate at the end of the alley and flipped the latch, I turned back to look at the critter just in time to hear the latch fall back and lock. She hit me full speed in the same ribs and proceed to pound me into the wood.
This was Juan’s first exposure to American veterinary medicine and he thought the whole thing was hilarious,
The ribs have healed up and I’m getting’ to where I can see the humor in the situation. But I notice as I get older some parts of my body wake up before others.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, ex-veterinarian and sorry team roper, who now lives in Arizona and travels the country, tormenting cowboys instead of cows.