At two days post-graduation, I was not the most confident diagnostician that ever lived. This was my first case, my first
day of work, my first venture into actually being a real veterinarian. Driving to the ranch, I was going through the possible
causes of the symptoms that the man had explained to me over the phone. I was going over the fifth cattle guard after the
sixth turn when I saw Otis at the foot of a steep cliff. I had never met him before. He was an overly thick man that always
smoked a huge cigar and had the verbiage of a sailor. There are two kinds of fat guys—the ones that wear their pants above
the belly with a 20-inch long zipper and those that wear their pants below the belly. Otis was the latter.
"Where is she?" I asked. Only to see him point up. At the top of this 15-foot cliff was a small, flat spot that the cow had
collapsed and laid down on. We climbed up the side of the dry river bed together.
When we arrived, I saw this huge Shorthorn cow lying on her side and paddling her legs. I began to feel the sweat roll down
my neck as I pondered what could have caused this.
Otis said, "What in the @##++** could be wrong with that big ol' cow, young doctor?"
I had no idea. So I told him I had to get something out of the pickup and slid down the bank to think for a second. I decided
the best thing to do was to get some blood and see if some lab tests could help. With blood collection tubes in hand, I scurried
back up the cliff.
Much to my surpise, when I stuck the needle in the cow's vein, the blood came back chocolate brown. Wow! I learned about this
is veterinary school: Nitrate poisoning. And guess what? I actually knew what to do.
The trip down the cliff found me walking with a higher step. I picked up the antidote and once again scurried back up the
Otis was impressed with my confidence and even smiled for a second. "So how long 'til she gets up after you give her this
stuff?" he asked. I had no answer to this question. You see this is why they call it the "practice" of medicine, and I was
working on my very first cow. So I just said the standard line, "I really don't know. It varies from animal to animal."
I gave the bottle of medicine in the vein and to my surprise, she hopped right up. In fact, she hopped up and looked pretty
mad. She looked at me and then she looked at him, and I guess she decided that he looked easier to catch and softer to head
butt because she went running at him with mean intention.
I did the only thing that any valiant veterinarian would in this situation—I ran down the hill and jumped in the back of my
pickup. I thought Otis was right behind me, but he wasn't. She had him on that little cliff and she was whoopin' him. At first
I was amazed at his agility. For a fat guy, he was putting some moves on this cow. But only for a while. After three or four
charges, she had her youthful athleticism back. On the fourth pass she got him. She rolled him like a rubber ball to the cliff's
edge and then with one mighty shove; over he went. Good thing that dry creek bed sand was soft. He landed on his shoulder
and I think I saw his back bend backward so far that his head touched his fanny.
"Are you okay?" I shouted from the safety of the truck bed.
"@#*# no!" he screamed back at me.
"Well you better get well quick because she is coming down that cliff with a bad look in her eyes," I said.
He jumped his 300-pound frame up out of the sand and started rushing toward me. It was hard to tell exactly, but it looked
like the cow was going to get him before he got to the truck. I noticed that his stride was getting shorter as he approached
me but I wasn't sure why.
As luck would have it, he got to me before she got to him, but he was too tired to jump into the truck and I wasn't strong
enough to pull him in. Plus, in the heat of the chase, his normally crack-showing pants had slipped down to just above his
knees, making it impossible for him to throw a leg up over the side of the truck. As I was reaching over him trying to pull
him in, I just grabbed anything I could get ahold of, which in this case turned out to be his giant, size 52 boxers. I was
basically giving my very first client a power wedgie.
He looked at the cow and at me and then bent down to pull up his pants. This left only enough time to start running around
the pickup to avoid getting rammed by the now full-speed cow. Each time he would come by I would offer him my hand and tell
him to jump for it, but each time he thought she was too close and he backed out at the last second to go on another lap.
Finally, at the hood area of the pickup on the sixth lap, she caught him. His pants had come down again and his stride was
just too short to outrun her. He was taking about 15 steps per yard. He rolled up into a big ball, and she bounced him around
everything in sight. I jumped out of the truck and did the best rodeo clown imitation I could.
She was determined to roll him a while before she came after me.
But just as suddenly as she came up from that dose of medicine, she quit and strolled off. When I got to him, he was covered
in stickers and cow doo-doo. His hat had been smushed flat. His shirt was torn in several places. His pants were down around
his ankles and his giant boxer shorts were full of dirt. He was cussing a blue streak, but he never lost his cigar.
I learned a lot that day. First thing is if you are a below-the-belly fat guy and work with cattle, you better have suspenders.
Second thing is, when you have a cow down from nitrate poisoning, you better head for the truck right after you treat it.
Third, I learned that after giving my first actual client a wedgie, this was going to be great career.
I am convinced there are just some things you can't learn in school.
Dr. Bo Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.