August 2008
On the Edge of Common Sense

ATV Excitement

By Baxter Black, DVM

There has been much made of the adaptation of machinery to handling cattle. 4-wheelers, jet boats, pickups, duallys, helicopters, ultralights and even motorcycles have encroached themselves into the equine domain.

To me there is also a difference in mindset: rancher or farmer.

I myself prefer the rancher/cowboy way of working cattle; with horses. But I have no gripe with those who are more comfortable in a gas-powered unit. It could be they like the mechanical methods of working cows because it is less exciting. Some would question whether working cows should be exciting, but I’m a cowboy poet so I have my own reasons.

Harold is a Michigan farmer. However, he had cherished dreams of doing things the cowboy way. On a trip to help his son-in-law in Kansas, he found himself helping wean and ship the weaner calves as well.

As Harold described it to me, he remembered sitting on an ATV watching the gate as his son-in-law moved a round bale of grass hay into the calf lot. Next thing he remembered, paramedics were hovering over him, shining lights in his eyes, putting a tourniquet around his head and puncturing him. He laid on the concrete pad and his skull throbbed!

From the corner of his swollen eye, he saw the ATV. The left front wheel looked cockeyed and the headlight shined from its broken frame. It was still purring its deep growl and glaring at Harold.

In his delusion, Harold began processing the picture, ‘It threw me off! Was it something I did? Rev the accelerator? Stop on a hole? Say something offensive? Hit him with my spur? Told him a bad tire joke? Did one of the calves kick at it?’

He didn’t remember it being skittish. He had rode it all morning. It never tried to buck. Harold passed out vowing to check the cinch next time, brush it better, and lift each wheel and clean the tires.

Now that he’s out of therapy, Harold said he’ll never take any ol’ plug for granted, equine or 4-wheeler. And I gave him a pat on the back for putting excitement back into the cow business! I particularly liked the western picture he had painted of himself deep in the saddle, toes pointed out, hand thrown back, puttin’ on a ride; ATV at the top of its jump, oil pan to the sky!

It’s called, "Treads up!"

Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website,