I think it’s safe to assume most of the population of the United States does not raise livestock anymore for their own consumption. Therefore, I believe it safe to hypothesize that the general populace has no idea that livestock are a lot of work. Raising them is a labor of love, as it were, either for the satisfaction of raising a healthy animal or the fact that you’re planning on enjoy some slab of that critter on the grill in the near future.
But I digress…
I was raised on a “Hobby Farm“; ten acres of fun. We had all manner of critters, from chickens and ducks to sheep, pigs and goats to horses and beef cattle. Some, like the horses, were definitely pets, but the rest were around for the table – with a few exceptions. Now, there are people in the world who will read this and say that there isn’t much work involved with livestock. My response to that is, “Sure – if you want to raise scrubby little animals that get sick all the time”. You have to clean the pens, make sure the animals are contained with proper fencing, make sure they are fed and watered properly, and grooming them.
I had to tell you all of that so I could tell you this…
We had goats. Oh sure, it started with one or two and culminated with having twenty-two goats at the height of the goat population. By then, DH and I had been married for a couple of years and moved away, my sister had her first child and it was just too many animals. So, we were selling them off little by little, but still needing to care for the ones we had, my sister and I had made plans to bring the goats into the barn one-by-one on a spring weekend to trim their feet and deworm them. The day progressed nicely and we had “the Ladies” all finished.
The last goat in the herd was the buck, Haven. Haven was a good-looking buck. He was colored like a Toggenburg, all muscular and long-flowing locks…. and a rather large set of horns. He was actually a very well-behaved buck, as far as bucks go, because we handled him gently but firmly. He didn’t try to ram or butt us with his horns, he’d walk pretty decently next to us on a lead. Overall, we were pleased with his behavior, and he was a good buck.
Haven, however, didn’t like being caught if he was running loose. This fine spring day, he’d seen his Ladies disappear one-by-one from the pen and get moved into the barn until he was the last goat outside. He was a bit panicky, after all – goats are herd animals, when my sister and I entered the pen to catch him.
There was a large run-in shelter in the pen/corral and Haven was running all over the area avoiding this shelter – which would have made it easier to catch him in. So, my sister and I backed off to let him settle down and conferred on what our next move would be. We decided that we could get him to run behind the shelter, which had a narrow space between the back of it and the fence, and I would lie in wait (well, a crouch really) for him to come my way and catch him by the leg.
At this point in the story I have to mention that I was raised around goats. I know how to handle them, but one thing to always bear in mind is that with animals – expect the unexpected.
Let’s resume the story… The new plan in place, we slowly made our way into position. We had to get Haven to run behind the shelter, with my sister following to prevent him from turning and going back. I had to take position and get ready to snag him as he came out from behind the shelter. This is a plan that would work. That is, the plan was brilliant if we were dealing with something a little less agile.
Haven was in his prime. He was strong, quick…and agile. Let me take another moment to emphasize this word… AGILE! Back to the story.
Haven was approaching my location and I held my breath in anticipation, adrenaline pumping as I readied myself to spring upon him. Okay, pausing again. Have you ever had one of those times where things happen so fast that time, itself, slows down and every action seems to take a hundred times longer than what it really is taking? This is one of those times. Slow your clocks and watches down to at least ten seconds for every normal second. Or, you could just read each word like there is a period between them. Alrighty, back to the story. I steadied myself as Haven approached, the moment of truth and reflexes like a spider monkey on crack had arrived. First, his nose came past the side of the shelter… but somehow, and I can only speculate on this, Haven knew I was there…
He started, stopped and…. I started, stopped and… He leapt! And I jumped to my feet! And we both dodged. Then jinked. The look of utter terror in the reality of what was to befall us clear in our eyes. And the seconds stretched out infinitesimally before us like a scene from The Matrix… except that Neo dodged the bullets… I wasn’t so lucky.
The sickening crunch as Haven’s and my head collided and I sunk to my knees into the mud and manure, one hand quickly slapped over my right eye, unsure if my eyeball was still in the socket or not, is still vivid in my mind. I shouted for my sister and she came around the shelter, uttering, “Oh my god! What happened!?”
Me – “We collided… But, do me a favor, would you? I’m going to take my hand away from my eye and I need you to tell me if my eyeball is in the socket.”
Sister – “What?! Oh my god! Let me get DH and Mom!”
Me – “First, I would like to know where my eyeball is…”
Sister – “Um… okay” *pauses as I remove my dirty-glove-clad hand from my eye* “Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!!!”
Me – “B… when someone asks you if their eyeball is still there…’Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!!!’ is not what they want to hear. Is my eyeball in the socket?”
Sister – “I can’t tell…”
Me – “I’m going to pull apart my eyelids…”
Sister – *making squeamish noises* “Yes! Yes, it’s there!”
Me – “Okay… thanks. Now, go get DH and Mom… I think I need to go to the Emergency Room.”
This story has a happy ending. Haven was eventually sold to someone starting a dairy herd and I hope he went on to have a happy life. My eyeball is only slightly worse-for-wear. I required some stitches in the eyelid and had a torn retina. I sustained a concussion. I made my nephew cry when he saw my face all purple and swelled up (He recovered and went on to have his own animal-related head injury. Everyone is allowed one.). I may have a piece of bone floating around in my forehead and my right eye, when I’m tired or looking at too steep of an angle, it starts to wander off on its own and go “googly” on me. DH got a LOT of dirty looks and I imagine was suspected of beating me when we went out in public. AND, this whole scenario has generated another story for another day… Adventures in Emergency Care.