April 2017
On the Edge of Common Sense

Anything That Can Go Wrong

"By gosh, that’s a new twist," thought Terry as he tightened his collar against the biting wind and stared at the heifer. She was trying to calve standing up! He eased up on her and dropped a loop over her horns.

She stood atop a swell on the high plains of eastern New Mexico. Terry reached her and tied 100 feet of polyethylene water skiing rope around her horns, as well. A safety line so he could at least get within 100 feet of her if she decided to take off in the 300-acre pasture.

Terry was unsuccessfully tugging on the calf’s protruding legs when his father-in-law cautiously drove up behind him.

"Got any O.B. chains?" Terry asked.

"Nope, but we could make a slip knot in that poly rope," suggested Dad, owner of the ranch and resident wiseman.

Terry soon had the yellow plastic clothesline attached to the calf’s leg. The remainder of the poly rope lay coiled ominously behind these two obstetrical wizards. It snarled and gaped like a rhino trap.

"Lemme grab some gloves outta the pickup," were Terry’s last vertical words.

He started toward the truck, but stopped when he heard the sound of thundering hooves. He glanced back over his shoulder to see the heifer sprinting towards the Colorado border! He felt something move underfoot and looked down to discover his boot dead-center of the discarded coils. A microsecond of his life flashed before his eyes just as the nest of yellow plastic snakes tightened around his ankle and jerked him off his feet!

Down the other side of the swell they sailed, Terry tobogganing like a 200-pound ham tied to a runaway buffalo! Dirt pounded up his pant legs as he scooted and skittered along trying to avoid straddling the brush and yucca that lay like land mines in the obstacle course!

Dad, ever the quick thinker, ran to the pickup and took up the chase! He had a plan. He raced alongside the dynamic duo and, at just the right moment, swerved between the heifer and Terry!

Folks. Pause for a moment and consider the possibilities. The pickup tire could have stopped on the rope. That, in fact, was the plan. But a cowboy’s fate works in mysterious ways and Murphy was waiting in the wings.

Dad did slam on the brakes, but the rope flipped over the hood and slid down behind the black iron grill guard. Terry, too, came to a stop when his foot wedged between the headlight and the grill guard. His boot came off and the heifer trotted on no worse for wear.

As Terry stood at an angle emptying 20 pounds of New Mexico soil out of his boxer shorts, he pointed out the flaws in Dad’s plan.

"Well," said Dad, "heifers that good are hard to come by and you’re just my ... well, heifers that good are hard to come by."


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, www.baxterblack.com.