It is a wonder that some vet students don’t get discouraged. I don’t mean from the grueling hours of study, the four years without sleep or the daunting specter of trying to cram 10 metric tons of knowledge into a six-ounce brain.

No, I mean when the student first begins to realize that despite all their skill, mental prowess and cow savvy, even the lowliest animal can reduce you to bumbling klutz.

Young Bruce was an enthusiastic vet student who spent his holidays and summers at Dr. Lionel’s clinic. He showed up one fine afternoon during spring break, dressed in his finest and sporting a new straw hat, and asked Doc if he could go on call with him.

Off they went to check on a horse with the vague complaint of being touchy about the head. They arrived at the address and the owner, a lady, explained as they walked around the back of the house that they’d had the horse a month and wondered if he had an ear infection.

Standing ankle deep in the sprouting pigweed was a scruffy little stallion. He stood 13 hands and maybe weighed 800 pounds. He was tethered on a 25-foot rope and had mowed weeds in a fifty-foot circle. They’d named him Sparky.

Bruce, eager to help, untied the tether. Doc gathered his stethoscope and stood visiting with the owner. They watched Bruce work his way up the rope. The horse eyed him like a prisoner watches the hangman. Just as Bruce reached for the halter, the stallion took a savage bite at him! His teeth locked on and jerked his new hat off his head!

Sparky reared and pawed. Bruce fell back. Sparky wheeled and raced toward the back fence. “It’s only an acre lot,” the lady said encouragingly. Bruce caught the rope at the twenty-foot mark and was catapulted to his feet. He hung on as they coursed around, between and through the truck camper up on blocks, the boat covered with blue plastic, the tilting hay pile, aluminum storage shed, old appliances, sheep wire, pile of posts and collection of ancient farm implements. Sparky was finally yanked to a halt when his rope tangled in the remains of an old pickup bed.

Bruce staggered from the bone yard streaked and tattered. He lost his glasses and his straw hat looked like a regurgitated cud.

While Doc was prescribing a treatment she could put in the feed, the owner asked, “Since you’re here could you put my dog to sleep?” Doc agreed and returned from his vet truck with the euthanasia solution to find Bruce, trying to regain his lost dignity, holding the dog in his arms.

The lady explained her reasons and her goodbyes then remarked, “and another thing, every time I picked up that dog it peed on me.” Bruce felt the warmth soaking down the front of his shirt.

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.

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.