Sometimes all the pieces come together just right. We had everything planted, but the ground was still too wet to cut any hay. There really wasn’t anything on my agenda that was pressing, so I decided to sleep in late that Saturday morning. It would be nice to take it easy for one day.
Fate has a wicked sense of humor. Shortly after 7:00, my phone rang. I got out of bed to make my way over to the phone on my desk. My landline phone rarely rings in the morning. Heck, my landline hardly ever rings any time of day! When it does, there’s usually a very good reason. This was one of those days, only different. On about the third step toward my desk, I came down on my foot at a bad angle. It was almost perfectly 90 degrees from square. That maneuver also came with an incredible “SNAP!!!”
My eyes were wide open at that point. I fully expected to look down and see the bottom part of my foot dangling free, or maybe a bone sticking out at the very least. Strangely enough, there appeared to be no visible damage. It didn’t even hurt. I hadn’t stepped on anything or tripped over anything. It was pure, raw talent. Had there been an audience, I’m sure the first question would have been, “So, first day with the new feet?”
I grabbed the phone on the fourth ring and was greeted by a dial tone. Well, well, well! A major injury in exchange for a hang-up. Seems like a fair trade for attempting to sleep in late.
I heard a vehicle rev its engine somewhere outside my window. Then I heard my front door. It was quickly followed by footsteps. Guy No. 1 showed up and informed me that the caller had given up on me and called him instead. My cows were standing on the front lawn at the moment!
Knowing my herd, and knowing that they take the whole herd concept quite seriously, I knew it wouldn’t be good. Standing on the front lawn is never a good place for them . . . or me. Standing on the front lawn after a foot of rain in a few days makes it a bit worse. Even the skinniest cow leaves some serious tracks under those circumstances.
Fueled by adrenaline, low blood sugar and a healthy does of rage from free time lost, I got dressed in short order and made my way out the door. “The herd” wasn’t really a herd. It was mainly a group of pregnant cows that were nearing their due date. Guess what? Females very near the time when the miracle of birth takes place tend not to be tiny. If you could sort through your entire herd of cows, you would find that the ones whose calves are a month old tend to be a bit smaller, weight-wise, than those a month away from calving. Take a wild guess and see if you can figure out which ones would leave deeper tracks on your front lawn in that case.
I hopped on my four-wheeler and got the waddling escapees back with the rest of the herd. A quick ride around the perimeter of the pasture revealed that some birds had sat on an insulated wire that connected the power supply to my electric fence. Sitting on it would be one thing. Pecking at it and disconnecting the wire is an entirely different matter. No current flow, no convincing argument to stay in the pasture. Some cows seem to be able to smell when a fence isn’t working. At least, I don’t think they’ve been studying wiring diagrams in their spare time when I’m not watching. Fate doesn’t play that dirty.
I got the fence problem corrected and a large flow of current returned to the perimeter fence. Then I went back to the house to check my blood sugar and eat breakfast. Potential driving liability prevents me from saying how low the number was on my blood glucose meter when I got home. I didn’t break my all-time low of 18, but it was closer to 18 than it was to 100.
As I stuffed my face with Zingers — The Breakfast of Hypoglycemic Diabetic Champions — I began to realize that my foot was really starting to hurt. This wasn’t aspirin pain, or Advil pain. This was trip-to-the-ER-on-a-Saturday-to-get-the-good-stuff kind of pain. What would my mother say if I showed up at the hospital straight from the task of rounding up cattle and doing some fence work? She would not be impressed with the kid she raised, that’s what she’d think. So I took a shower and got dressed up. Knowing my luck, if I went straight to the hospital from the scene of the incident, the word would somehow get to her and she’d be there in the waiting room already to let me know how bad I looked.
Once inside the ER, I explained my situation to the guy at the desk. He asked if I needed a wheelchair, which I declined. Then he had me take a seat to wait for my nurse. Fate saw another chance to take a jab at me. The nurse on duty was my neighbor. Why keep my situation under the radar?
She came in and went over my case. As soon as I told her what happened, and why the phone call I missed was so important, I knew what was coming next. “Your cows got out? Well, we always try to schedule that during weddings!”
It’s true. When their oldest son got married a year or two ago, their cattle in the feedlot decided the best time to make a break for freedom was during the wedding dance. The father of the groom had just begun to dance with his new daughter-in-law when the sheriff showed up to inform him that his cattle were out, and, oh by the way, one was dead in the ditch next to a freshly crumpled minivan of another neighbor. I got to spend a couple hours that night helping them get the herd back home. Feedlot steers don’t drive like beef cows. Okay, maybe they do, but it was just the group of wranglers wearing tuxedos that threw them off their game!
Finally the doctor arrived and said that the X-rays didn’t show any obvious breaks, but it could be a stress fracture. That would take three or four days to show up. If it still hurt the following Tuesday or Wednesday, I could come back for more X-rays to see if I’d done anything serious. He suggested I take it easy and put my foot up in the meantime. My neighbor the nurse looked at him and kind of laughed, knowing full well I wasn’t going to do that. Although, that was pretty much my plan for the day about six hours before that! Now I had a medical opinion to back up my desire to be a slacker. Expensive validation is still validation, in my book.
The pain didn’t get much better over the course of the next week. When I went back for another Saturday morning ER visit last week, I had different nurses and a different doctor. All of them were strangers this time. We took another set of pictures and found nothing. Well, we did find that I broke my big toe at some point in the past, which I didn't remember doing, but the pictures don’t lie. The doctor claimed it was in my records, too.
Before we were finished, the doctor said something about my treatment protocol and my abilities. “It looks like you know what you’re doing. I mean, you put your foot up, you iced it, and you’re wearing really good shoes. I don’t think you’ll have any problems, but feel free to come back if you do. By the way, what do you do for a living?” My response apparently threw her. Must’ve been the shoes.
“Really? You’re a farmer?”
That's when I pulled out my business cards and handed one to the doctor and one to the nurse. The doctor read our company slogan: “Feeding the world…because Mayo Clinic was already doing brain surgery.” She laughed. “Oh my gosh,” she said. “That is excellent! I love it! Can I keep it? I want to show it to a couple of people.”
By all means, Doc. Then I gave them the background on the slogan. Perhaps I should add another line to my card. “You never know what you might step into on the farm.”
Fate will do that to you sometimes.
Guy No. 2