Early Morning Education 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I was just stepping out of the shower when the phone rang. “I hope Sandy is awake enough to answer it,” I thought.

“That was Jack, up on Whiskey Butte. He is pretty excited,” Sandy said. “He has heifer down in the middle of the road going into his place. She apparently fell or rolled down a high bank onto the road. He is not sure, but she might be in labor. I told him you would run right up there before going to the office.”

“Yes, I better get on the road,” I said as I quickly dressed. “I will grab a bite to eat at Midway Market on my way back to town. If I hurry, I should be able to get to the clinic not too long after eight.”

The morning air was brisk as I quickly checked the truck to make sure I had everything. I probably drove a little too fast, but the traffic on Whiskey Butte Road was sparse before seven.

I made the turn onto the road down to Jack’s place and slowed for the hairpin curve at the creek. I could see the heifer lying right in the middle of the road, not far from the curve. I pulled my truck to the far right of the road and came to a stop.

She was right in the middle of the narrow gravel road. There was no way to get around her. It looked like she had slid down the bank on the hill side of the road. There was a steep drop on the other side that went down to the creek.

When I got out of the truck, the heifer raised her head and struggled briefly to get up before laying back down and straining. I could see the nose and front feet of the calf at the vulva. This should be an easy delivery.

As I was getting things out of the truck, I could see the school bus making its way around the sharp curve. 

“Looks like the kids are going to get an early lesson this morning,” I said to myself.

The bus pulled up close to the back corner of my truck. I held my hand up to show the driver five fingers. I should be done in five minutes. I could see the kids piling up at the front windows of the bus. Hopefully, he keeps them on the bus.

I put a rope on the heifer and tied it to my front bumper, just in case she decides she wants to leave. Then I tied her tail out of the way with twine tied around her neck.

The hardest part of the job was getting on my knees on the gravel road. But I got down and scrubbed her vulva before doing a quick vaginal exam to make sure things were what they appeared to be. This would be a tight fit, but the heifer had already done most of the work.

I put the nylon OB strap on both front feet and positioned the calf jack. I glanced at the bus, and the kids were now glued to the front window and fighting for position.

I started jacking the calf out. The vulva stretched but did not tear. Some heavy mucus came out of the calf’s nose. Then the head popped clear of the vulva. I worked the jack faster, and as the hips came to engage the pelvis, I pulled the calf jack down, almost to her hocks. This would push the hips higher in the pelvis and allow them to clear. I remembered the hip lock that Jack had on my first visit.

When the hips cleared the pelvis, the calf almost shot out the rest of the way. The calf raised his head and shoulders and gave a little shake to clear more mucus from his nose. The bus almost bounced as the kids all jumped up and down and cheered. 

I quickly treated the calf’s navel and moved him to the edge of the road. Then I checked the heifer’s birth canal. There were no injuries, and there was no other calf onboard.

I rinsed her rear end and untied her tail. Then, I made sure there was plenty of slack in the rope before swatting her on the rump. She rolled up to on her sternum and then jumped to her feet. There were more cheers. The heifer started forward, hit the end of her rope, and swung over the edge of the road. 

I wanted the bus to go by and pick up the kids up the road. I would wait until he came back down the road before releasing the heifer. After the bus eased by us, I moved the calf over under the heifer’s nose. When the bus turned around and came back down the road, the heifer was licking on the calf. All the kids were on the side windows and waving as the bus eased past us again.

I cleaned myself up and released the heifer, then drove up to Jack’s house to tell him all was well and he could drive the heifer and her calf up the road any time.

By the time I got back to the clinic, they already had heard the story from Jim, the principal at Foster School. The bus made it to school a little late, but the kids were all anxious to share their morning lesson with the rest of the students.

Photo by Raphael Nast on Unsplash.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

10 thoughts on “Early Morning Education 

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carol. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. When I wrote the story, I didn’t have a thought of it being one of my best stories. It was a simple event, but I am sure it stuck with a number of the kids on the bus that morning.


  1. The kids may have been there for the christening but not for the laying of the keel. We had a Backcountry bus trip on Catalina where we got to see bison foreplay.
    He had the savoir faire of an adolescent male.


    Liked by 1 person

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