By Joseph Bray

It’s come to this, I have to stab her in the stomach or she is going to die.

Five minutes earlier:

It was Sunday morning and we were just finishing up milking 12 cows.  I was in the processing room washing all of the equipment while Jackson and Jubilee were feeding the cows hay and cleaning up the milking parlor.  We were running a little late to get to church, but if we pushed a little harder we could make it.  Jackson rushes into the processing room saying “Dad, quick! Ginger is down and in trouble!”  On approaching the scene I saw Jubilee staring intently, frozen with fear, unable to move.  Ginger was in the mud struggling to breathe.  I quickly shoved my arm down her throat searching for a restriction, shoulder deep, nothing there.  Ginger apparently didn’t approve of my method and stood up desperately trying to get away from me but could do little more than get on her feet.  Now off the ground I saw the problem, she was bloating uncontrollably.  Something she ate was causing her to produce more gas than her body could expel so she was expanding like a balloon, her lungs were collapsing and she was suffocating.

This had happened before, just months after we started the farm and I knew what I had to do. I had to relieve the gas manually.  The moment I came to grips with this I knew from the previous experience that this time I couldn’t hesitate.  I turned to run for a knife but instead I found Jubilee saying “here dad” while thrusting a knife into my hands.  This is who I thought was paralyzed on the sidelines, she’d already come to the same conclusion but before I had.  Grabbing it I turned around and stabbed my cow.  I was rewarded with an eruption of methane filled with partially digested grass clumps and stomach bile assaulting my face.  Have you ever heard a whoopee cushion that hurt your ears and lasted for over a minute?  What about witness a cow relieving itself from 3 different orifices at once?  It was terrifying.

Whatever was in her stomach continued to build too much gas for her to self regulate for about 5 hours. To keep the gas from building back up to dangerous levels we had to keep the hole in her rumen open and made her walk, which speeds digestion.  It was a cold windy rainy day but my family diligently took turns walking with her, comforting her until she was finally able to be left alone.

Unsurprisingly it was another day the farm took away our plans.   I wasn’t bitter about it though, I was actually elated!  My children did exactly what I needed them to do when they needed to do it without any direction from me.  That may sound simple to you but before this I didn’t know any 11 year old girls that could diagnose a situation and act on it like that.  My 9 year old son knew it was over his head and that daddy needed to act quickly and my 5 and 7 year olds endured the elements not only voluntarily but cheerfully, happy to be a counted on when needed.  Today was a win, yes I stabbed a milk cow and I call it a win.

*While this happened several years ago, we would like to keep the memory fresh.

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