The new head catch


On the edge of common sense

It was a fairly nice day for Cut Bank in early April. A little breeze blowin’ off the reservation, the sun about the color of skimmed milk and the creek startin’ to show the runoff.

That afternoon, Myron had spotted one of his cows with a calving problem. Only one foot was showing. He brought her up to his covered preg checkin’ shed where he had installed a new head catch. Since his wife had gone to town he called his neighbor, Florence, for help. When she arrived, they eased the ol’ cow into the crowding pen and started her down the long alley toward the head catch. 

I think I should describe his head catch. Think of it as French doors with a gap down the center. Except the doors weigh over fifty pounds each and are made of steel and pipe. To set the head catch you open the doors inward, part way. Then when the cow’s head starts through you swing the lever so that it closes in front of her shoulders. To release the beast, you trip the latch and the doors swing open to the outside.

Halfway down the alley the cow stopped and went down. No amount of tail twistin’ and bad language could unwedge her. At his request Florence brought Myron a bucket of water and the O.B. chains. He lathered up and slipped one end of the 32-inch chain over the protruding leg. On examination he found the other foot further back but already in the birth canal. Myron smiled with relief. But remember, God does have a sense of humor.

Myron deftly slipped the other end of the chain around his slippery wrist and dove back in. He grasped the recalcitrant foot with his hand and popped it into position. Miraculously, the cow sprang to her feet and started down the alley. Myron, of course, followed . . . approximately 32 inches behind! Florence was racing the cow and her attached obstetrician to the head gate. Florence swung the gate open. Too wide. Then she tried to close it. Too late. The cow shot through. Too fast. Followed by the tethered arm. Too bad.

Just as the head catch clanged shut, Myron hit it head-on and rang his bell. The procession screeched to a halt. Florence, in a panic, hit the latch and the head catch blew open. Myron was jerked forward and rear-ended the cow. Surprised, she kicked him smartly in the groin. He fell backwards. She laid rubber and whiplashed him into a belly flop. Across the corral she ran, dragging Myron like a locked-on Sidewinder missile. Through the mud and muck he torpedoed. His waistband was scooping up the night soil and pounding it down his pants until his belt and pockets piled up around his ankles.

In spite of the slick sledding Myron was no longer aerodynamic. His drag coefficient was approaching that of a trawler with a net full of moldy hay. The cow idled momentarily and Myron slipped the chain off his wrist. He plopped in the flop and lay like a plow left in the furrow.

The cow jumped the fence and calved unaided 15 minutes later.

Myron was treated for abrasions on his oil pan and now wears a 16 1/2, 34, 36 shirt.


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