The New Veterinarian


My youthful appearance did not help my doctor persona. There were times I went out on a farm call in the vet truck. Pulling up, I’d barely get out of the truck when the farmer yelled to me,

“Where’s the vet?”

“I am the vet!” I’d reply, walk over, and take control of the problem.

I was called out to take care of a cow dystocia one afternoon. The caller was one of the old rancher farts. He told me to drive up Hwy 46 past the James Dean Memorial and take a left to follow Hwy 41; his gate was a green one on the left side of the road about two miles past the memorial. After going through the gate, I was supposed to follow the road a quarter mile into the hills. No one had cell phones at the time, so when I counted off two miles, all I could see was an old rusty gate. I continued driving the highway, but the hills became too steep for access, so I turned around and went through the old rusty gate. As I drove down the dirt road, I saw a down cow with people around her. I got out of the truck, heard the usual “Where’s the vet” jokes. "I've been waiting here a long time," the fellow began his complaining.

"Did you have another call?"

"No, the gate isn't green, it's rusty brown," I told the fellow as I was pulling on my coveralls.

"I thought I just painted it last year," he said.

I walked over to the cow; she was lying on her side. Donning a sleeve, I probed her uterus feeling an enormous head stuck in the birth canal. Evidently, the calf had been dead a day or so, and was becoming dry. Bacteria entered the skin causing the subcutaneous region under the skin to swell with gas; we call that an emphysematous calf. The combination of deadness, bacterial overgrowth, and loss of lubrication caused this weak calf to become stuck in the birth canal.

The calf was too puffy and dry to pull from mom without some fancy tools. It needed to be cut up, pulled out in pieces. I went to the truck to retrieve the fetotome, a device with two twenty-four inch long metal tubes welded together. Passing a coarse wire through one of the tubes, my hand grabbed the wire to manipulate it under the calf's body, specifically around his neck; I was going to saw his head off.

With the wire circling the neck, I grabbed the end and threaded it back up the opened fetotomy tube.

"Ready?" I asked the rancher. I showed him how to use specially designed handles to grip the Gigli wire. One handle held the right cable and another the other wire as it came from the second tube. Placing such handles on the wire created a firm hold with the Gigli, now the rancher began to saw the metal rope back and forth. I kept my hand near the end of the fetotome to maintain proper position of the wire as it sawed through the soft bones of the neck, my hand was on the top of the fetotome, giving me a feel for the sawing.

"Start pulling back and forth on the wires," I instructed the fellow. I was setting him up to use the cable to seesaw back and forth through the fetal body, cutting it apart for easier removal.

Soon the wire cut through the neck, and I removed the head from the calf. I needed to do a similar cut around the front right leg, and that went well too. Now with the leg removed the rest of the calf was small enough to be extracted. I placed two large antibiotic capsules into the uterus and gave the cow a large penicillin injection. I left two more penicillin dosages with the rancher and instructed him to give them to the cow each day until she was up and about. After that, there was no way to catch her up again until roundup time. Soon she’d be gone up in the hills with the rest of the cattle.

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