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It was the largest animal I had ever seen that wasn't in a zoo.
They put the big white bull in the corral once he started bloating. He continued to bloat until he no longer could fit through the gate.
That is what the owner told me on the phone, and the words were repeating in my mind as I drove to the farm to see what I could do. I was greeted by a man in his mid-80s and his son who was in his late 60s. Neither of them looked very fit. I followed them down a winding dirt road that led to the big white bull. I will never forget this bull. He was the largest animal I had ever seen that was not in a zoo. He was as tall as a horse, and in his current bloated condition, was as big around as he was tall. He must have weighed close to 3,000 pounds and was just standing in a 20-foot by 20-foot pen pawing the dirt with his front legs.
"Me and paw ain't never seen a critter bloat up like that rascal," came slurring out of the younger man's mouth as he wiped the tobacco spit off his chin and lips.
The corral was something out of "Sanford and Son." It was, without a doubt, the most run-down set of fences I have ever seen. I was guessing that it was state-of-the-art cattle handling facility back in the 1940s, but over the years, the cedar posts that made up the parameter had weathered and broken and had been replaced with wood palates. Wired up with bailing wire and binder twine, they had no semblance of order. The pan was half covered with a run-down sloping roof-like structure that went from about eight feet off the ground on the west edge of the pen to about five feet off the ground in the center.
But the gate garnered the longest gaze from my now worried mind. It was a door — just a door. It looked like someone took the front door off a house and framed it out to use as a gate. I had never seen anything like it. It was actually painted with a fresh coat of blue latex and looked like a door into the Twilight Zone but I wasn't sure which side I was standing on.
Here is the situation: There is a ton-and-a-half white, bloated bull standing in the middle of a 20-by-20 pen, pawing the ground with anger in his eyes. I am supposed to get in the pen with this monster and somehow let enough air off him so he will fit through the pen's "front door." Not only that, they had already backed the trailer up to the door, which opened into the pen, and this bull was going to have to jump two feet off the ground to get into the trailer as he went through the door. No problem.
I approached the situation with a great deal of caution. As I ambled up to the fence, the bull greeted me with a mighty snort and puff of dirt as be pawed and bellered. "Am I really crazy enough to get in that pen?" I thought to myself.
The geriatric pair took position to watch their own private rodeo from the hood of their truck. I could feel my knees knocking as I began climbing the most stable looking palate. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but sedation seemed to be an essential element if we were ever going to get anything accomplished. My syringe was loaded with enough sedative to stop a charging rhino; I just had to get close enough to administer it without getting killed.
We stood there face to face, me and this big, white bull. We sized each other up. His bloated condition had left him a bit sluggish, and I counted this as my greatest advantage.
I moved ... he moved with me. I moved a step closer, and so did he. I took another step ... and he charged toward me at full speed.
Just as I was about to get a foot-hold on one of those palate slats, I felt his head contact the fat-meat that makes up the bottom of my fanny. It was then that I experienced a brief moment of peaceful flight. He launched me in the air, over the fence and into the bed of my pickup. I landed on an open medicine bag, a spare tire and yesterday's sack of garbage. The geriatric pair never moved. They just waited to see what would happen next.
The emotion that overcame me was not pain, not fear, not disgust. It was anger. Now I was mad. That beast was not going to get the best of me. I fashioned a spear out of a nearby shovel handle and taped the syringe to the end of it. I moved to the edge of the fence and dared the bull to "Come and get me!" He wasted no time. As he approached, expecting to feel my soft fanny again, I gave him the dose of sedative like a matador in Old Mexico.
Fifteen minutes later, has was sawing a log in the middle of the pen. I went in and put a trochar in that giant stomach and felt the air blow out in a rush that lasted a good five minutes. He lost five dress sizes, and the stink of soured rumen air filled the corral.
I told the people to let him wake up and then put some feed in the front of the trailer. When he gets hungry, he'll go in there and then shut the gate and bring him to the clinic.
Time passed, and I forgot all about the big white bull. A few weeks later I saw the old man in town and asked what happened. He said when the bull woke, he was real mad and tore the pen, roof and all, totally apart then headed out to pasture. He went on to say that the only thing left standing was the blue door that he had wired to the trailer. But the bull was fine. He was back to breeding cows and had not bloated since. He went on to thank me for being such a good veterinarian. He never expected that bull to live.