From Pipi’s Pasture: Putting up the flag
October 10, 2014
I've been doing livestock-related chores a good part of my life, and I've had my mishaps, incidents that have turned out being a little messy but otherwise not serious. Most of them have been due to bad judgment on my part.
For example, I've been knocked down on the feedlot, have been sprayed down with an unruly garden hose while filling the cattle tank, and have had bottle calves pull well-used nipples off bottles, spilling milk over my clothes and into my shoes. Two of the worst incidents have involved mud.
There was the time, before we moved to Pipi's Pasture that my husband Lyle and I were watering some steers down next to a creek. It was muddy along the creek bank. In fact, the mud was more the consistency of quicksand, though I didn't realize it at the time. I should have paid more attention to the steers. They didn't venture very far out into the mud. I was stupid enough to wade out far enough that the mud engulfed my snow boots. The boots were cemented into the goop. I finally pulled my feet out of the boots, and Lyle packed me to the shore.
Lyle rescued my boots, too, but they were never the same after that. I had to line them with plastic bags to keep the snow and water off my feet. And worse than that, family members found out about the incident. They saved shopping bags and presented a box of them to me at Christmas. There was also talk about getting me a flag that I could raise when I got stuck in the mud again.
So then years later, after we had moved to our present location, I was by myself doing evening chores. It was early spring when the ground was thawing, and the corral was the way it always is that time of year, filled with a gooey manure/snow/mud/hay mix. The mess was ankle or more deep, and once again it was a challenge to get my boots around through the mess. I tried to walk around the sides of the corral where it was the most firm and where I could hang onto something — like the fence or calf chute.
The calf chute was where I got into trouble. I tried to hang onto the head catch lever, but just as I pulled one foot up through the goop, my hand came down on the lever, the head catch was released, and I went down into the slop. I can't begin to describe the mess. Besides being wet, sloppy, and stinky, I was cold. However, I managed to finish my chores and get back to the house. I used the back door, closest to the laundry room, managed to take my boots off on the rug, ripped all of my clothes and put them in washer, and finally put myself in the shower.
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I was foolish enough to relate the incident to family members who again suggested getting a flag that I could raise when I got stuck in the mud. However, these two getting-stuck-in-the-mud stories are mild considering what I did recently.
I have not told anyone about getting my head stuck between the bars of the gate — not yet anyway, though my family will find out if they read this week's column. It happened just the other night when I was doing evening chores. I had to fill the water tank so instead on going around to the other side of the gate I decided to try to reach the garden hose. I got down on my knees and reached through the bars of the gate. I couldn't quite touch it so I pushed my head through the space between the bars. Alas! I couldn't get my head back out!
I panicked! I was home by myself. I wondered how long it would be before Lyle came home and missed me. The cows chewed their hay and thoughtfully studied me. I had scolded them more than once about getting their heads stuck in the fence. I could imagine what they were thinking.
I turned my head, I pulled. My head came loose. I don't know how I did it, but I will forever be grateful. And "putting the flag up" suddenly seems more relevant.