Miracle on Chigger Hill
. . ."Pa’s got ’em ready”, was our call to work. While we were preparing to tend to business on this first Thursday, seven tail-wrapped rumps greeted us–two sorrels, a bay, three Paints, and a black. From then on, the others blended into a blurred line. Six, sixteen, or forty-two mares would be circling the catch pen, while three, six, or nine mares would be standing in the examination stocks inside the breeding shed. I started from left to right. “Hold ‘er tail to the side,” I said, aiming a pipette to inseminate yet another of the dozens to be run into the stanchions. “We’ll check ‘er by sonogram in fourteen days…to see if she stuck. Next!"
Hutch moved three steps to his right, and raised the next sorrel mare’s tail. We were moving through another orchestrated pregnancy exam when the worst sound known to a horseman shattered the air. GONG! GONG! Bobby Don was ringing the fire alarm bell. GONG! GONG! The huge iron bell rang disaster. It could be heard for miles. Chills shot up my spine. “Ohmigod…it’s barn two!” Hutch yelled, dropping everything and sprinting for the doors. . .
. . ."FIRE! FIRE!” I hollered back.
“Cut ’em loose! Turn ’em out!” I heard Hutch and Bobby Don shouting.
Dr. Vest’s voice rang out. “That barn’s filled with mares and babies!"
His stride was longer than mine. Billowing clouds of dense, black smoke were boiling from the west end of barn aisles as I raced behind Dr. Vest. He followed Bobby Don and Hutch inside. Horses were whinnying in terror. Flames shot high in the sky from the shavings bin on the east end– and I was stopped in my tracks by the intense heat of the inferno. My forearms raised to shield my eyes. I lost sight of my partner and the other men, but I could hear them unlatching gates and shooing horses. Acrid smoke filled my lungs, and my eyes began burning as uncontrollable tears streaked down my cheeks. I choked and coughed, and jumped to the side of the entrance as a filly and colt, followed by a string of loose horses, blasted through the wall of shadows in a stampede of panic.
“Doc…Hutch…Bobby…,” I cried out over the clatter of hooves. Roaring rumbles silenced any response. I heard another gate unlatch. “Doc…Bobby Don…” There was no reply. I yelled again and again. “Hutch…Doc…"
…find out the outcome in Chapter 1 of Dallas Doc.
…a muffled noise came from the treatment area-someone was sobbing. This was definitely an odd beginning to the morning…
…Then I saw her…hovering over a small cardboard box on the exam table. “Rachel?” Our receptionist quickly wiped her eyes, trying to regain her composure when she saw me. “…what’s wrong?"
“…this…I found it on our doorstep when I came in. I’m so glad you’re here early, Doc…’cause I sure can’t bring myself to open it."
Loosely tied, the small unmarked carton had several irregular holes punched through it. The string slipped off easily, and I lifted the flimsy lid. A frayed, yellow towel covered something inside. Pulling up one corner of the cloth, still damp and cold from the night air, I eased it away from a huddled ball of fur, as Rachel whispered, “…a kitten?…is it…is it still alive?”…
The tiny calico looked like a fuzzy caterpillar. But at the feel of warmth…her mouth opened and she squeaked…
No one said another word. We’d been down this road before. Always in sync with one another, we each moved quickly to do what was necessary. Tracy fetched a warm towel from the dryer, and I began massaging vitality into the little life. Dr. Vest reached for the incubator and hooked oxygen lines to the glass womb, while Tracy rigged a tube-feeding apparatus to provide nourishment from baby formula…
The kitten was much too small to survive on her own. Vets everywhere face this type of decision almost daily. There were only two choices: ‘go for broke’ with ongoing treatments…or euthanasia. The ‘logical’ business decision supported…….
find out the ending in Texas Doc.
I knew Hoss O’Brien better than he knew himself. The feedlot farmer, who seemed unable to pull himself up from the depths of poverty, had called the clinic to report a problem with his cattle. “My cows don’t look so good, Doc…they’ve been losin’ weight.”
…As I pulled around the house near the backyard, two of O’Brien’s eleven kids stopped their wrestling long enough to wave to me.
“Hoss, where did the cattle here come from?” I asked.
“South Texas,” he proudly said, “…and I got one hell of a deal, too.”
After scanning the herd, it didn’t take me long to realize he’d been ‘taken’. Three depressed cows Hoss had pointed out were dying in a standing position. And the farmer said, “Whatdya think, Doc…are they sick?”
…As I checked each animal, I saw that even the healthiest cattle were showing symptoms of a disease. The O’Brien’s cattle had Anaplasmosis.
“Now, Doc…tell us true…what’s this ana-stuff?”
I said, “Hoss, they get poor blood, run high fevers, quit eating and drinking, turn yellow from bad livers…and die.”
“But where does it come from?” he asked.
“It’s spread from animal to animal by direct mechanical transmission.”
Looking confused, Hoss said, “But, Doc…my pickup ain’t been runnin’ lately.”
…find out the outcome in Chapter 14 of HEY DOC.
So Much Change
. . .I could remember when Trinity Mills road was a gravel shortcut across cotton patches and sectioned fencerows on the prairie. At that time, four huge ranches, the Samuel, Rose Meadow, McKemy and Swinging D, surrounded the lands of eighty other large farms— and my truck could rumble from horizon to horizon without stopping.
…Dusty cowpokes with sweat-stained, straw western hats, threadbare jeans and worn leather chaps had given way to slick-legged, nylon equestrian riding britches and couturier custom-designed shirts. Instead of rawhide reins and spurs, fashion conscious newcomers with one-acre, boutique-farms were strapping on velvet-covered hardhats and polished English saddles.
…”We’ve got to make a quick stop at the Rose Meadow Ranch to do a fertility check on a bull… then….”
Sal nodded in agreement, “There’s still a ranch in this part of town?”
…Sal read the bold red painting on a metal sign hanging loosely from barbed wire. It said: WHOA! TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT. QUESTIONS WILL BE ASKED LATER. He seemed worried, “Doc, this Mr. Grey…he knows we’re comin’…right?”
…The Brangus bull slowly lumbered his massive body toward the examination catch-pen. “Real nice…ain’t he?” bragged Grady Grey. Then he looked at me, frowning, “But, Doc…I’m afraid he might be sterile.”
…”I’d call him big,” remarked Sal, cautiously approaching the chute. “Gwad…look at the size of that beast.”
See Chapter 9 in Country Doc to see how the Brangus bull responded to the fertility testing and what the crusty ol’ rancher thought about the new, youthful city doctor, Sal Ward.
With today’s instant connections to an endless variety of news, it’s no surprise how misinformation can spread in the blink of an eye. Trying to see the humorous side, we often found ourselves repeating the same phrase, “If it’s on the Internet, or in print…it must be be true!”
…When Mrs. Sally Kemp came in, I noticed she clutched a national women’s magazine with little yellow tags sticking out from certain pages. “I want Patches checked for this disease…because my daughter is 3 months pregnant.”
…The article was titled ‘Toxoplesmosis’…but it might as well have said Cats Carry Baby Killer disease. Cat infections were historically traced to the ingestion of freshly infected raw meat…
Patches had never seen a mouse or rodent, much less eaten one. However, I did recommend the duty of cleaning litter boxes be put on hold temporarily for pregnant clients.
Chapter 14 in Doc tells what was prescribed…