D. E. Larsen, DVM
Buck was resting under the giant oak tree on the corner of his barnyard. He was chewing on the remains of the trimmings from the horses’ hooves that he had gathered yesterday when Dale, the farrier, had visited his farm. This was a perfect June morning with bright sunshine and a cooling breeze coming up the creek.
He looked up with a start when he heard his favorite truck in the distance. It would be visible coming down the road shortly. This was Doc’s truck, and it usually meant that there would be better treats than these old hooves. Buck started down to the barnyard. Doc’s truck was still not visible on the road, but he wanted to be there to meet him when he pulled into the yard. Buck had suspected that something would happen when Ellen had him bring in the calves this morning. He loved to herd his calves, even better than the cows, because they would never challenge him. It was his job, and he lived for it.
Ellen came out of the house as Doc was pulling into the barnyard.
“I’m glad you could come on such short notice.” She said as she extended her hand to Doc. “Walker wanted the bull calves marked so they would be healed for sale in a couple of weeks. I’m sorry that he couldn’t be here today. Will you need any help from me?”
“I might need you to hold a tail or two, but I’m sure that Buck will herd them into the chute with no problem. There are only 3, so we should be done in a jiffy,” Doc said.
“That will be great. I wanted to be able to move the colt to the upper pasture today,” Ellen said.
“How are things going with the colt? He was sort of jumpy the last time I worked on him,” Doc asked.
“He is better, but I still have to keep a firm grip on him. He is almost more than I can handle at times,” Ellen said.
Doc had gathered his things and headed to the chute. It was a joy to work the chute with a dog like Buck. He was probably one of the best cow dogs around. It was sort of a shame that the Nicolson’s had such a small herd. Buck deserved better.
With the first bull calf in the chute, Doc grabbed the tail and bent it over his back to give a little nerve pinch for restraint and some pain control. Castration was a quick procedure on calves this size. He showed Ellen how he wanted the tail held, and she performed like a pro.
Doc grasped the scrotum and stretched it down. With one quick slice of the scalpel, he removed the bottom third of the scrotum. Then holding the ends of the two exposed testicles with a large Oschner forceps, he stretched them down until he could feel the cremaster muscles separate. He moved the forceps up to clamp across the cords at the scrotum, then retrieved the White’s emasculator from his bucket, and the testicles were quickly removed.
Doc looked at Ellen as he held the emasculator firmly. “Do you want these?” he asked as he held them up.
“No, are you kidding? You know Buck has been waiting for them all morning,” she replied.
Doc looked at Buck. He was fixated on the morsels he held. Doc threw them up in the air, and Buck followed their arc. They bounced once, and with one quick swoop, he caught them both and made a quick swallow.
Ellen released the tail and smiled. She enjoyed how Doc truly liked Buck. Doc applied fly spray to the tail switch and around the wound, and on the calf’s back. Probably a little early for flies, but just insurance. The other two bulls went the same, and in no time, Doc was cleaning up and loading things back in the truck.
Buck knew the event was over. He loved the work, loved the treats, and enjoyed Doc when he was in his barnyard. He always had conflicted emotions when he went to town to see Doc. As Doc pulled out of the barnyard, Buck went back to his resting spot under the oak tree. This was his spot, and he could survey the entire farm from this spot, and nobody would bother him here.
As soon as Doc left, Ellen headed to the barn. She had haltered the colt earlier and was anxious to get him up to the upper pasture and see him run in the open field. It had been a wet spring, and the pasture was finally dry enough to turn him out. The colt snorted as she opened the stall and led him toward the barnyard. She headed for the road; the upper pasture was about a quarter-mile up the road. She had some concerns about how the colt would react to a car on the road. This time of the morning, they should able to make the trip without any traffic.
Buck watched from his spot under the oak tree. Thinking Ellen might need his help, Buck decided to follow along. He could at least bite a heel if the colt required correction. Buck trotted to catch up and fell in line behind the young horse.
They made it to the gate of the upper pasture just in time. Ellen could see a pickup coming up the road at a pretty good speed. She hurried to open the gate but had some difficulty with the latch. The colt heard the truck also and turned his head to get a better view. He reared up a little, and Ellen took a better grip on the lead, taking a wrap around her hand.
Buck didn’t like this colt. There was no reason for him to be causing problems. If he didn’t settle down, he would bite him on the heel.
The gate finally swung open, the truck roared past them. The colt reared again, and Ellen used all her weight to control him.
Buck moved in and bit him on the heel. That should settle him down, he thought.
The colt jumped forward and lurched toward the open pasture with one motion. The lead that was wrapped around Ellen’s hand tightened, and in an instant, two fingers separated from her hand and flew into the air.
She watched as her fingers tumbled in the air. Time seemed to stand still for the moment. She thought she could reach out and catch them, but she could not make herself move. She thought about life without two fingers. She thought about all the miracle things they do in surgery today. Maybe they could be reattached. She watched as they began to fall. There was no pain, no blood. She just watched as they hit the ground and bounced.
Then there was a blur. It was Buck. He swooped in and caught both fingers with one motion, and they were gone with a quick swallow.
Ellen sank to the ground. Now the pain came and the blood. She held her injured hand tightly. “No, Buck! No!” she screamed. “Damn you, Buck! Damn you!”
Buck had never heard that tone of voice from Ellen. He turned and ran back to his barnyard as fast as he could go. Buck settled into his spot. He would wait here until Walker got home, he thought, as he aimless picked up a sliver of hoof trimming from the last time the farrier visited the farm. Things would be okay again. He never liked that colt anyway.
The driver of the truck had watched the event in his mirror. He stopped and slowly backed down the road to see if he could help. At least he could call the ambulance. He wasn’t sure he wanted all that blood in his truck.
Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash