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Irons in the fire: A cow and the Constitution

Paul Marchant for Progressive Forage Published on 30 May 2018

Davin is my neighbor. He’s in the eighth grade, and he just turned 14. Like a lot of 14-year-old boys, sometimes his attention span rivals that of a cedar post, but he’s a big stout kid, so he comes in pretty handy as a neighbor, especially since I don’t have any kids at home anymore.

He’s not particularly enamored with school, but he seems to like U.S. constitutional history. He helps me with the feeding in the winter and does the chores, like feeding the chickens, dogs and horses when I’m out of town.

Davin is as good-natured as they come, so he takes it pretty well when I harass him about the minor screw-ups that happen on a regular basis on any cow outfit – but perhaps on a slightly more than regular basis at my place.

Lest you think I’m picking on a youngster, you can be sure he is quite adept at dishing it right back at me. When the heifer calves got mixed with the steer calves, his memory was right on point when he reminded me I was the last one to go through the gate the previous night.

So when I threaten to entice a little more speed out of him with the hotshot when he’s pushing cows up the alley, I can be sure he’s plotting his revenge.

One weekend this past spring, although Davin was complaining of flu-like symptoms as he harangued his older sister, his mother wasn’t fully convinced of the lad’s illness – so she gently encouraged him to help me with the chores and feeding as she kicked his rear out the front door. I’d spent most of the morning in town, helping with county fair steer weigh-in, so I was running “more behinder” than usual.

It was a decent day, weather-wise, but we were right in the thick of calving, so we were sure to encounter some speed bumps as we raced to catch up with the day. True to form, a heifer was having trouble calving. In an ill-advised effort to save time, I figured Big D and I could pull the calf without the aid of the calf puller.

We got the job halfway done with a piece of baling twine and semi-brute strength, but I still had to go round up the calf puller, which was somewhere on the ranch. I’m glad it’s a tool that’s seldom used, but I was in a panic when I couldn’t remember if it was in the tack barn or the shop. Luckily, my first guess was the right one, and Davin’s midwifery skills were not too severely tested as I left him with the heifer and her half-born calf as I scurried away to find and fetch the puller.

We successfully extracted the baby bovine and made sure mother and baby were in good condition before we jetted off to douse the next fire, which appeared in the form of Old No. 40.

Old No. 40 is a semi-cantankerous black cow that had calved in the middle of a 10 degree night a week or so earlier. I’d rescued the calf and put it in the calf warmer, but I had to pen mama and baby together to make sure they’d mother up. Since I was short on time and help, I’d just kicked the pair out in the 80 behind the house with the heifers.

Old No. 40 had promptly high-tailed it to the far end of the pasture, where she remained for a couple of days until she discovered a bad spot in the fence. (She’s really not too bright. Finding a weak spot in that stretch of fence is akin to finding an actor with an uninformed opinion in Hollywood.)

We jumped in the pickup and zipped down the road to fetch the wayward cow. I let Davin out at the gate, and I drove the truck 100 yards down the road to get around the cow. He wanted to know if he should take the pitchfork in case the cow took after him. I laughed at him as I drove off. “All you need to do is stand there. She’ll turn right in the gate,” I sneered at him.

I don’t know how I could have miscalculated, but somehow I was wrong. As the old black Jezebel approached the gate, she blatantly ignored it as she ducked her head, blew some snot and set her sights on an unarmed Davin. The closest and only thing that resembled protection of any sort was a power pole, around which the cow circled three times – with Davin only a half a slobber in front of her.

She only ceased her pursuit as I ran up behind her and smacked her with, of course, the pitchfork. At that point, she turned her attention to me who, in turn, summoned all of the athletic ability I could muster as I scrambled up onto the flatbed.

Davin, still high on his rush of adrenaline, discovered the courage to goose the cow around the truck and through the gate. It was then that I discovered his affection for the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment when he breathlessly hollered at me, “Please don’t ever try to take away my right to bear arms again!”  end mark

Paul Marchant
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