It's really not that easy


Doc and 'Jimmy Stewart' get unwanted advice from blowhard who doesn't understand intricacies of calving

I guess one of my favorite things about being a veterinarian is helping in the process of bringing a new critter into the world.

After more than 10 years and thousands of deliveries, it still has a special sentiment within me.

It must be a strange thought in a little calf's mind to look up and see a big nose, mustache and glasses as the opening act to the play of life. But as with most things, I don't get to see them unless there is a problem.

'Average afternoon'

It was an average afternoon when the phone rang revealing a local rancher with a heifer having trouble calving.

This guy reminded me of Jimmy Stewart. He had the same sound to his voice and moved his head and neck like Mr. Stewart did. It made it a lot of fun to be around him. I've been here long enough to know most of the people around who have livestock and I know how they do things. When this fellow can't get the calf out himself, this means it is going to be a doosey. And sure enough, it was.

Twisted, upside-down mess

The calf was twisted and presenting upside down. For those of you who have not had the privilege of trying to pull a 75 pound baby out of a small-hipped heifer, I will give you a couple of analogies; it is sorta like doing a carburetor job through the tailpipe or pulling a marshmallow out of a piggy bank.

We got this heifer in the chute and started the tedious process of straightening out the calf. I worked on it for about a half an hour and then got a total body cramp and had to take a breather.

Upon seeing this, Jimmy just hopped in and spelled me. He pulled and twisted, moaned and sputtered, and finally tagged off to me again. By now, the heifer had layed down and was not even attempting to help by pushing. We were both covered with that sticky cow juice that comes with a birth. It is God's WD-40 and boy is it slick. In fact, if you step in sticky cow juice in an unfocused moment, you will slide like you are on ice and make all those arm-flinging motions that are required to maintain balance and make you look as old as you are getting.

Hair-trigger temper

After you have done this for awhile, your temper is on hair trigger.

Over the years, I have adapted the ability to do this while answering questions from other clients lining up appointments for tomorrow and talking on the phone.

Mr. Stewart, on the other hand, was used to doing this without spectators. Most of the time, at the vet clinic, someone will be standing around with the "Cliff Claven" mentality. This, of course, means they have seen it all and done it all. This was no exception. Some fellow that I have not seen before or since shows up and starts watching.

It was Jimmy's turn again when this guy walked up. Mr. Stewart was engulfed in one of those heavy straining moments when this spectator suddenly says, "I had an aunt who could just walk out into the field and pull one of those things out."

Now I have heard those things ever since I started being a vet. It bounced right off of me. I just figured this spectator had no idea what he was talking about and was giving us a demonstration of his ignorance. I had no idea that Jimmy was paying any attention at all. Just about the time Mr. Stewart had the calf untwisted, he lost his grip and the calf recoiled to the very position it was in when we started about an hour ago. Frustration was at an all-time high. I told him to take a break and let me have another shot at it.

Once again, the spectator started. This time he said, "She could have really done good if she would have had one of these fancy things to catch the cow in."

Once again, it just bounced off me. But much to my surprise, when I looked up at the normally mild-mannered Jimmy, his face was beet red and a puff of smoke was coming out of each ear.

"It's not that easy, you see," Jimmy said with a vintage Stewart accent. "This calf is all twisted up, you see."

If you will just picture Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life," you will see in your mind just exactly what this guy looked like. "If she is so good at this, why don't you just go and get her," he finally said.

Upon hearing this, the spectator turned and left. I have no idea who he was. I don't know if I was just simpled out or if it was really that funny, but I got to laughing so hard I had to quit pulling and just lay there in the "cow juice" producing that laugh that doesn't even make any noise.

Jimmy apologized saying, "I hope I didn't run off any of your clients."

I told him not to worry.

We finally got the calf out and went on with life. I often think about that moment when I am pulling on a stuck calf. It can still make me laugh just thinking about Jimmy standing there, covered with the slickest substance in the world that is even in his hair, making it stick straight up, red-faced, sleeves rolled up, frustrated beyond words and telling the "spectator" to just go and get that aunt. Oh, by the way, she never showed up.

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