By Donald Sanders
For Rural Life Today
URBANA — Most of you reading this column probably have not seen the veterinary clinic that my late wife and veterinary partner, Dr. Judy, and I built. It is a round building and was designed to accommodate our large and small animal veterinary practices.
Dr. Judy and I, with our team, served the surrounding area either in the animal hospital or on farm calls for over 40 years. We provided 24/7 emergency service to regular clients.
The public didn’t normally see the inner workings of our clinic. At the hub of our circular building was a large central supply room. It featured a counter around the outside wall and a round counter in the center, where we received medication shipments, formulated bulk prescriptions and stored equipment.
This center of activity wasn’t designed for racing, but that is what our sons and daughter used it for when, as preschoolers, they came to the office three days a week with Dr. Judy. We hired a babysitter just a couple days a week. But when they came to the clinic, they turned the building’s central traffic pattern into a mini-Indy 500 on trikes. Their racing became especially intense after nap time in the afternoon.
By age 7, our daughter, Michelle, attempted waiting on our clients. When we weren’t closely monitoring goings-on, she would answer the phone. Sometimes we got notes from clients telling us how cute it was to see her climb up on an office chair, take a check from them, write a receipt, and endorse the check with the clinic stamp, before filing it.
One time when Judy and I planned to attend a continuing education seminar on the West Coast, my brother and sister-in-law offered to babysit our youngsters. They had children about the same age, so it appeared to be a perfect arrangement.
When we returned, our sister-in-law filled us in about games our children organized with their children when she and my brother were out of the room. She said that our kids laid hardback chairs on their sides in two parallel rows with a two-foot space between, to simulate a cattle chute.
When asked by their aunt what they were doing, my boys said that they had put up the “chute” to castrate and dehorn calves. The roles of the calves were played willingly by their naive cousins.
Fast forward a few years to Ted Green’s very real killer cow. My son, David, was riding with me on a hot summer day when we got a call from Ted that he had a cow in a difficult calving. I knew Ted, but before this had never provided veterinary services at his farm.
When David and I arrived, I saw that this was going to be a much bigger job than I anticipated. The cow, a 1,600 lb. Charolais, was in obvious distress. Two legs were sticking out from under her tail. And she made no bones about wanting no part of the calf, my intervention, or being tied up to a post for an examination.
She stood at the far end of the pen, head up in the air, frothy around her muzzle, pawing the ground, sweating and … Well, let’s just say if I named her, she would be called “Jaws.”
Though only 12 at the time, David was a good assistant. I instructed him, “I am going to rope her. She will probably try to attack me, so I will throw you the rope over the fence. Then wrap the rope two or three times around the main barn support beam.” David nodded.
I roped Jaws on my second try. As I had predicted, she charged at me like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
Quick as a flash, David wrapped the nylon rope around the barn beam three time before the enraged mama hit the end of the rope. The rope stretched like a bungee strap on a tarp about to lift off a loaded grain truck heading into a strong wind.
Unfortunately, David needed a couple more wraps of the rope around the beam. She didn’t slow down when she hit the end of her tether. So, I jumped the board fence, which was nearly six feet high.
David couldn’t hold Jaws. The rope slipped forcefully through his hands, burning all the way. I saw David bite his lip. I knew he was about to cry. Fortunately, I was able to snag the end the rope and wrap it around the next beam down the fence line. This time, the rope held her.
At that very moment Ted Green’s mother appeared in the outside door way, recognized the dilemma with the cow and David with tears in his eyes. She said, “Let me take your son up to the house and treat his hands.” I gladly accepted.
Despite the dramatic lead-up, the calf delivery was fairly routine. However, the calf had died prior to delivery, as I had anticipated. Birthing had gone on too long.
After cleaning my equipment and returning it to the truck, I looked for David. He came out of the house all smiles. Mrs. Green had dressed his rope burns. Plus, she had him sit in a rocker by the air conditioner while treating him to a soda and a half dozen candy bars. She was a good nurse.
As our children got older, they insisted they could stay by themselves when we attended an overnight seminar. Two of them had driver’s licenses, so they could get themselves to school, go out for something to eat and return home for the evening.
Yet, my instincts nagged at me. The boys, on a couple of occasions, clammed up as soon as I was within earshot. From experience, I knew that boys will be boys. I could see that some scheme was about to be hatched.
Dr. Judy and I discussed the situation. We concluded that they were responsible young adults, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a couple of precautions. I asked a friend whose son was a friend of the boys if he would mind stopping in on Saturday night while we were gone. He could feign looking for me, but check up on what the boys were doing. He agreed.
Dr. Judy and I attended the meeting, comfortable that things were in good hands. Indeed, they were. My friend reported that my boys had organized a fishing derby at our pond with their friends. They charged a $10 per person entry fee, some of which went for prizes.
Previously, I have written about Dr. Judy’s passing in 2011. We were blessed with more than 47 years together.
Just a couple years ago I was again blessed. I met Kris, which blossomed into a relationship and marriage. I am truly a lucky guy to have had two wonderful women in my life.
While I no longer answer emergency calls or maintain a veterinary practice, I am still in demand to train veterinarians and farm managers in several countries. I often have the opportunity to take Kris with me on these jaunts to South America and Asia. And when I do, I don’t have to worry about entertaining Kris, as she finds things to see or do while I consult with clients.
Recently, Kris has gotten tuned up that we have never had a honeymoon. It is time to take one, she says. And she’s right.
Of our many trips together, I’ve told her jokingly, “Just think of these trips as one continuous honeymoon.”
“Oh no!” she’s quick to reply. “You aren’t getting by that easy. If the trip is paid for by someone else or is tax-deductible, it doesn’t count.”
Well, Kris has never been to Hawaii, though I have. She’s decided that’s where we should go. I have agreed to take her to Maui with a promise for a return trip in 10 years.
That is the plan. We will be going to Maui this year as planned, and I will go back in10 years to bring her home.