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FDNY, part 2

FDNY (part 2)

By Bill Stork, DVM

Ask any country vet. They’ll tell you the pager never sounds when you are sitting in your coveralls and boots, sipping coffee with your truck warmed up thinking, “man I’ve got a powerful hankering to go pull a calf right about now.” It’ll be about the time you step out of the shower, when the charcoal is about ready for the rib-eyes, ten minutes after you’re snoring and drooling, or when your girl sits down and pulls back her hair to expose that spot on the back of her neck that’s been aching all day.


In twenty two years we’ve gone from touchtone phones and an answering machine, through the age of the pager and now we have hand held computers with caller ID and GPS. Regardless, the term “grace” does not always describe the first reaction to an emergency farm call. There can be thoughts not consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath, words not suitable for the dinner table and on rare occasions, projectiles.


We remind ourselves the farmer didn’t call because he had a good joke to tell, and he’s been at it longer than you have. If the “911” came from Brian Zabel, you were particularly obliged to cut short the pity party, saddle up and get to work. Brian’s “911” was always in form; a heartfelt acknowledgement of the intrusion, sandwiched between apologies.


“Good evening Dr. Stork! So sorry to interrupt the time with your lovely lady, Paige and Calvin, but we need some assistance with a brand new momma,” he would boom with the enthusiasm of a Disney shuttle bus driver.


“I’m awfully sorry but I’ve tried everything and I’m gonna need an expert,” like he hadn’t pulled a thousand calves himself. From a man who is soaked through his insulated Carhartts, frozen to the bone and exhausted.


In the time the frost clears the windshield, you find Del McCoury playing that high and lonesome sound on the radio. As fog clears the brain, you assemble your differential diagnoses, medicine and instruments. In the passing fields, corn stubble forms moon shadows on the January snow pack.


I can't imagine a Nobel Peace Prize sitting on the mantle would square my shoulders and clench my fist more than the experience of delivering a live heifer calf with Brian. Me, lying face down and armpit deep, searching for purchase and an extra pound of torque in order to bring up the southbound head of a northbound calf. Brian, wedged between a barn post and the cow’s flank, straining like an Olympic power lifter to keep her from rolling on her side, and my right ear out of the manure and fetal fluid.

To be continued...

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