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The Last Windrow: Good luck to recent grads

"We'll get the bull into the corner of the yard. I'm going to toss a rope around his neck, you grab the rope fast and get me a half hitch around the corner post," the vet explained. Photo Illustration

The bull got up and disappeared over the hill.

This is the time of year, after high school graduation, when many young people begin making decisions on where they hope to end up in the world. They have been seated in those hot high school auditoriums and listened to someone give a long-winded speech on how exciting their future will be if they just knuckle down, work hard and dream big.

Most students are just waiting for the moment when the school board president hands them a diploma. Some in my high school graduating class took a peek at their diploma before stepping off the stage to make sure it was actually signed.

My chosen vocation was to farm. I grew up with a foot on the tractor clutch pedal, and I knew the business end of a scoop shovel. Throughout my elementary years and early into my high school years, farming was going to make my living.

Oh, it was suggested to me that perhaps I might investigate other vocations in case the farming thing didn't turn out. And, I did once think about becoming a veterinarian.

Our local vet was a jovial soul whom we called on when a critter was in trouble or to inoculate our hogs against disease. I thought if I weren't to make a go of it farming, I might like to be a vet.

It never entered my mind that a veterinarian might have to take courses that would rival an actual human doctor's studies. That meant lots of math and science and subjects in which I did not shine. But, our vet offered to give me a taste of the occupation by riding a route with him as a helper of sorts. I took him up on it.

Our first stop was a farm where the milk cows needed to be tested for something called "bangs." We drove onto the farmyard just in time to see the entire herd of milk cows heading at high speed through a gate and over the hill with a farmer and his wife chasing after them.

"Dang!" the vet exploded. "I told them to have the cows inside the barn in their stanchions when I showed up. When they smell this vet truck pulling into the yard, cattle get real nervous if they're not already confined."

We spent the morning helping the farmer and his wife round up the herd and never did accomplish the test.

"I'll be back next week," the vet told the pair. "Make sure you have them in before I show up."

So much for the morning's work.

The next stop was on a farm where the farmer had called to report that his black Angus bull had an open sore between the toes of his right front hoof. We found the bull standing stoically inside the cattle yard, looking like he was in pain. The bull weighed in at around a ton. His neck was about an ax handle wide. A beautiful, big creature.

I wondered how we were going to get at the front foot of this beast. The vet seemed not be be a bit worried about the operation that needed to be done. We could see blood seeping from the open sore.

"We'll get the bull into the corner of the yard. I'm going to toss a rope around his neck, you grab the rope fast and get me a half hitch around the corner post," the vet explained. "Then I'll get a rope around his other front leg and we'll bring him down."

That sounded do-able and matter of fact. No problem.

We moved the bull to the corner of the pen. The vet tossed a rope around the bull's neck on the first try. I grabbed the loose end of the rope and put the double hitch around the corner post. The vet lassoed the bull's left front leg and began to pull. The bull went to his knees. But, then he got up. With a mighty grunt and surge the black Angus shot straight toward the heavens, hit the dirt and headed west, pulling out the entire three corner posts, the fence wire and taking the two ropes with him, leaving the vet, the farmer and me wondering what to do next.

I have no idea how that exercise turned out. We left to fight another day. I'm hoping the vet survived.

As I watched the bull disappear over the hill trailing the three fence posts and half the fence wire of the corral, it was at that moment that I decided that I might try selling clothing or going to cooking school or trying my hand at guiding fishermen.

Good luck graduates! You might just need it if you decide to apply for vet school. I ended up selling clothing.

See you next time. Okay?