Tailwalking Buddy

Not that many years ago, a Border collie puppy named Buddy was born beneath a row of slacks that hung within my closet.

Alissa, our daughter in law, holding Buddy as a puppy

This puppy along with two other older Border collies would one day drive off a pack of marauding coyotes that, under cover of darkness, had stolen up behind Buddy’s human companions.This was the puppy who eventually would grow into an adept ranch dog capable of breaking up fights between huge bulls and of skillfully moving a cattle herd across our ranch.

A young Buddy

This was the patient dog who spent six weeks at my side while I, not so patiently, waited out a painful back injury. This was the puppy that would eventually grow into a wise old dog and who has now entered his dotage. In short, Buddy has now grown old.

Six months ago Buddy passed his 14th birthday. While his eyesight and hearing are not as keen as they once were, his major physical limitation relates to his mobility. You see, his rear end tends to give away, causing him to unceremoniously plop down. His collapse is usually followed by his soulful eyes pleading for a bit of help to regain his four footed stance. Trudy or I will then help him to his feet and allow him to get underway. We have found that by holding onto his tail and slightly elevating it, he is far more capable of walking without falling. This maneuver seems to aid Buddy’s balance and walking. We refer to this as tailwalking Buddy.

For a dog as independent-minded as a Border collie, it is surprising that Buddy accepts our tailwalking, but Buddy has a way of accepting gracefully his limitations that accompany his aging. I never thought acceptance would become one of his traits along with his intelligence, herding ability, and loyalty to his human companions.

Buddy also must now wear a belly band and incontinence pad. We suspect Buddy’s leakage also relates to his old spinal cord injury.

Notice the belly band around Buddy

Our method proves effective but requires us to buy large amounts of incontinence products at the grocery store and order his male belly belts online. Together this combination of items has saved spotting around the house. Again Buddy accepts the belly belt and pad without seeming to question. When he enters the house he waits patiently just inside the door for Trudy or me to fasten into place his padded doggie belt. (I worry as to what the store clerks must think about Trudy buying such large quantities of male incontinence pads! Fredericksburg is, after all, a fairly small town.)

Trudy and I have made other modifications around the house including elevating Buddy’s dog bowl to make it easier for him to eat, placing runners in our tiled bathroom to facilitate Buddy making it to his elevated dog bowl without falling down, and lifting Buddy into and out of the padded bed of my pickup.

We are unclear as to why Buddy shows progressive walking impairment. We do know that years ago Buddy suffered a spinal cord injury from a ruptured disc that briefly left him with paralyzed hind limbs. We suspect this is the likely cause, worsening now with his advancing age. With patience and rehab Buddy following his original injury gained a normal gait although never achieving full strength in his hind legs. Border collies also may develop hip dysplasia that could also be a contributing factor.

Trudy tailwalking Buddy

 

At times Buddy whimpers, yelps, and pants, all symptoms that suggest he is in pain. Learning this our veterinarian prescribed pain pills. These pills have helped. Nevertheless, nighttime is the worst time for Buddy. Trudy and I have spent many nights letting Buddy in and out of the house, requiring us to tailwalk him up and down the stairs to the yard, laying on the floor attempting to comfort him (he sleeps under the bed), and providing middle of the night snacks. Our list of interventions is short but repeatable. It is also exhausting.

A recent addition of a second pain medicine has provided further benefit. Nevertheless, on a daily basis we seem to see an overall worsening of Buddy’s mobility. His decline inevitably brings up the wracking question as to how long we should proceed with our Buddy routines in light of Buddy’s  discomfort. If Buddy stopped eating, lost his zeal to travel in the pickup, or no longer showed his love of life, the decision would become much easier. For now Trudy and I will help our aging Buddy dog to travel around the house and yard by holding his tail and dutifully trailing along behind him. Metaphorically speaking, is not this what Buddy has always done for us?

I’m here for you my human companions

Tom and Buddy

 

Life At The Ranch During Covid-19

What a strange year, this year of Cobid-19, has become. This novel coronavirus has altered everyone’s lives to a degree that I cannot recall ever happening before. While self-isolating for months on end doesn’t compare to the sacrifices made by parents and grandparents during World War II or several other disruptions during the history of the U.S.A., somehow it has still taken a heavy toll on many people.

Recently I spoke to my good friend, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Tom Norris, about this psychological toll on our collective equilibrium. Tom has quite a story to tell. He was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam war and spent five and a half years in various POW camps in North Vietnam. Tom like other American POWs suffered from isolation, poor food, beatings, and various illnesses. Tom is surprisingly open and speaks about his travails but admits that until recently most folks couldn’t understand the impact that a loss of personal freedom has on the psyche of a person. Tom is willing to again speak publicly about his experiences because he believes people will now better understand the impact that the loss of personal freedom has, having experienced it from the self-isolation caused by Covid-19.

Certainly the limited deprivations for most of us during Covid-19 are nothing like those of our Vietnam POWs, but recent experience during the Covid-19 pandemic of not being able to socialize, travel, hug, and attend public events has diminished spirits and caused widespread depression and anxiety. There has been a collective angst during the pandemic for many. Hang tough, this too will end.

Toasting the new Ranch Sign

Fortunately life goes on at the ranch in spite of the pandemic. Spring calving season has come and gone. Cattle prices have fallen due to meat processing plan closings due to Covid-19 and resulting in  too many animals in the feed lots. I’ve held onto my yearlings longer than usual, waiting and hoping for a rebound in cattle prices. As such the herd has grown but with plenty of good grass due to Spring rains, all is good so far. Our calf crop has been particularly good this year. The calves are called “smokies” as they are Black Baldy/Charolois crosses.

2020 Spring Calf Crop

 

My time during the pandemic has been variously spent doing re-writes for my book on Hitler’s health and its impact on World War II, ranch duties, planting a garden, and attending a slew of Zoom meetings. The feeling of restriction did bring about a Covid-19 beard. Am not sure I can explain how this personal protest benefits anything, but somehow it felt like an appropriate expression of my personal angst.

Tom with Covid beard atop Dandy

The bright spot for Trudy and me has been the birth of a grandson, Teddy O’Neal. Yes Katie and Kevin had a child that tempted us out of our seclusion and prompted us to take a trip to Dallas. The proud grandparents were not allowed into the hospital where Katie delivered, but were waiting at home when the expanded family returned. What a treat! New life during the pandemic when tragically so many others have lost their lives. Teddy beams a beacon of hope.

Teddy O’Neal, new life

Teddy and Oma Trudy

I stayed for five days but Trudy stayed on for almost three weeks. She mainly cooked and cleaned but also helped with the 4 am feedings. Needless to say, we are thrilled with little Teddy. The parents while sleep deprived are holding up well. New life, what a treat. Welcome to the family, little guy.

Teddy and a visit from our son and his family have gone a long way to relieving our symptoms of lack of energy, loss of motivation, and general sense of feeling blah. I suppose we are all social animals in need of love, interaction, and outside stimulation. At least that is the formula for happiness at Medicine Spirit Ranch.

So life goes on at the ranch even during the pandemic. Over Memorial Day weekend, we enjoyed our son Andy and his family, and nephew Will, his lovely wife Clare, their one year old, Sherman, and their two Golden retrievers.. Yes, we loosened up on our self-isolation. Part of the fun was watching our grandson, Graham, frolic in the pool with the two energetic Golden Retrievers. This proved an effective antidote for the side effects of self-isolation.

Graham and Henny

 

Carrying The Black Bag Now An E-Book

Pleased to say that my Book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales has now become an E-Book. It is available on all platforms such as Kindle, Nook, and Apple Books.

A common question asked at book signings and by friends is whether it is yet an E-book. Some had concerns about the price of the hard copy, or else simply prefer to read E-Books. At last, here it is.

If you haven’t read my book, I hope you will consider doing so. While written as a memoir, it is about the humanity demonstrated by fascinating patients during my professional lifetime and caring for these wonderful patients. People dealing with health challenges can teach us much about life, and often in surprisingly humorous ways.

If you are reading this on Facebook you can click on Tom Hutton, MD at the top or go to my blog for additional description and reviews of my book. Pleased to say the book has been well received and has won several nice awards. Good reading!

Carrying the Black Bag book

Montaigne Medal Finalist

Feathered Quill Award

Winter At Medicine Spirit Ranch

The work changes with the seasons at Medicine Spirit Ranch. In many ways winter is the busiest time of year because we must keep the animals supplied with hay and supplemental protein.

Also we carry out tasks more suited for winter months. For example, the small evergreen juniper saplings, referred to locally as “cedar”, visually contrast better in winter from the tall brown grass. This makes it easier to find the cedar in winter and to apply a set of loppers to the task. The cedar is most unwelcome on ranches, because it demands huge amounts of water and competes with the various grasses needed for our grazing animals.

Also we repair fences during the winter. The fences become stretched from cows leaning over them and deer jumping through them. Also feral hogs have made their unwelcome appearance and will likely create still more fencing problems. Ugh!

We horses need our protein pellets every day. Now don’t be late!

We work on equipment during the winter that typically is in heavy use during the warmer parts of the year. We cut dead trees and clear drainage pipes under ranch roads. The daily cattle feeding is greater during the winter than during the remainder of the year as we keep them supplied with hay in the form of giant (900 pound) bales. We also feed the cattle range cubes on a daily basis to supplement their protein needs.

The horses on the other hand receove their protein containing feed every day year round whereas the cattle don’t during the non-winter months. Given the excitement and jousting for the range cubes by the cattle, we refer to it as “cow candy.”

So why do the horses get supplemental feed every day of the year and we don’t?

This past week we’ve been repairing a well in one of our pastures. This job proved arduous, as we had to dig up a 45-gallon container that was buried in the ground. The container stores water and moves it to a nearby water trough. We found a leek at the connection that fed into the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately after replacing the pump motor, replacing the water container and some  PVC connections,  and then reburying the tank, we sprung yet another leak. It seems the large water container sank deeper into the hole, re-breaking the PVC pipe. A second attempt at this fix hopefully has addressed the problem. We’ll see. So far, so good.

Curious how the cattle stood around the developing pond resulting from the leak and gawked at our inability to fix their water trough. I am pretty sure Number 36, a.k.a. “the Tongue” was chuckling. Cheeky cow! She is my nemesis.

We continue to vaccinate calves for black leg (a bacterial infection) and periodically take a load of yearlings to market. Six calves have been born within the last week or so. They are so cute at this age. See their pics below.

We never seem run out of tasks on the ranch despite the season. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait for Spring to arrive.

Book Submitted For Publication- Yeah!!

After two decades of research and three years of writing, my manuscript that is tetatively titled, Hitler: Prescription For Defeat has been submitted for publication. Few people who have not written a book understand how arduous the process really is.

In my case my editor for Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales requested I expand the chapter on Hitler’s illnesses from my prior book into a full length book. She believed such a book would appeal to a substantial audience. The new book covers much more than his Parkinson’s disease by including his coronary artery disease, his intestinal problems, other more minor illnesses, his medications along with discussion of his very unusual personality. The impact of his poor health and abnormal personality is discussed in terms of their effect on three major battles (Operation Barbarossa which was the Invasion of the Soviet Union, The Battle of Normandy, and The Battle of the Bulge) in World War II. Suffice it to say, we can be grateful Hitler was so sick and screwed up!

Since this book was requested by my editor, here’s hoping this provides “a leg up” on acceptance. Am keeping my fingers crossed. Even then the process would take the remainder of the year and no doubt further revisions, gathering of the Forewords, help with marketing, hiring a publicist, and completion of an Appendix. The road is long.

Nevertheless, I am greatly relieved by completing this step in the process. Also I am most appreciative of friends and family who have acted as readers and encouragers (I’m looking at you LaNelle, Madelyn, Janet, Tom, and Trudy among others).

In the meantime I would hope you would give my earlier book a look. Carrying The Black Bag has been very well reviewed and describes wonderful people who placed their faith in my medical hands, and by so doing, shared their incredible narratives. From such heroic and brave individuals came a volume that says much good about the human condition. It also includes a surprising amount of humor. The book can be purchased from Amazon or your local book stores. Also please check out the website http://tomhuttonmd.com for further information and reviews of my book.

Carrying the Black Bag book

I’ll try to keep you updated on the progress of the new book. Also hopefully now I will have time to place more blog posts. Recently all my creative energies have been focused on completing the Hitler book. Now I should have more time to write on other topics. Thanks and hope you keep reading…

Thoughts On Dogs and Aging

My prior blog piece shared aspects of our 14th Birthday party for Buddy and his sister, Howdy.

A grown up Howdy

A sampling of doggie themed tasty appetizers

We enjoyed feting these two old Border collies. Just think of it; 14-dog years are the equivalent of 94-human years. Such graceful aging by both dogs justifies giving them a party.

A young Buddy posing

It is hard for me to wrap my head around how Buddy who once was so active, athletic, and energetic, has become so old acting. I first observed him changing by his weight loss. Buddy has always been thin but he became even more so. I suspected Bella and Little Jack, our other dogs, were eating his food. We began taking precautions against this. Finally I added canned food to his dry food (plus table scraps) along with keeping a watchful eye during doggie dinner time. No poaching from the senior dog!

Buddy in recent years has developed a pained gait. No longer does he sprint across the pastures, spring across cattle guards in a single bound, and ferociously herd cattle fifty times his size. No, Buddy now gingerly walks cattle guards, has a mincing, head down gait and is subject to having his rear end collapse unceremoniously out from under him. He now even requires my assist getting into the cab of the pickup or into the bed of the pickup. Traveling in the pickup, though, is probably still his favorite activity. Buddy accepts my help, but I sense he doesn’t like his need for such help. But he still loves to ride in the pickup, traveling across the ranch with the breeze flapping his ears and barking happily. Watching this, I know his life is still good and enjoyable.

Buddy sleeps more now. I’ve noticed like Buddy my own fondness for afternoon naps. If he is not working on the ranch with me (which basically consists of Buddy sleeping under the pickup while I work), he travels among his many dog beds strewn throughout the house. He simply requires more rest now than he did previously. When sleeping I often see his legs moving. I imagine that Buddy is dreaming of prior exploits on the ranch, or else dealing with a particularly gnarly cow in his dream state.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun and a good nap

I’m surprised by how well Buddy has accepted his limitations. When Trudy and I return from a trip to town, we are always mobbed by our dogs. They bark and act as if we have just returned from an extended round-the-world trip. Buddy, however, can no longer compete with the other dogs for our attention and instead holds back. While Little Jack and Bella jump up, bark, and ferociously compete for our attention, Buddy hangs back, merely cutting his milky eyes in our direction with a look of hopefulness plastered across his graying doggie muzzle.  I can tell he loves it when we approach him and pay him special attention, while also needing to defend him from the onslaught of the other dogs.

Buddy long ago lost his position as dominant dog in the house. He can’t stand up to Bella or even Little Jack who are stronger now and more assertive than he. He seems reasonably content with his lowered station in life and doesn’t seem to fight the inevitable. This reminds me of humans on the brink of retirement who often say, “You just know when the time is right.”

Buddy shows resilience in the face of getting old. He accepts his infirmities, loss of station, and limited mobility. However, he does require greater affection and petting. He warts us for petting almost constantly. I wonder if his neediness for his human companions’ approval helps to mitigate his sense of loss in the other areas. While he no longer can achieve the redemptive power of work, he has put away a lifetime’s worth of impressive works.

For this, my old dog, I say thank you.

It seems to me there is wisdom for humans in watching our pets age. Perhaps Max Ehrmann in his Desiderata said it best:

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth…

He continues:

You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Doggie Birthdays

We recently celebrated 14th Birthdays for both our male Border, Buddy and his Sister, Howdy. She resides with her human companion, Suzy Gillette about twenty miles west of Fredericksburg. Fourteen years old in human years equals 98 dog years- now that’s really old and calls for a PARTY!

Buddy on left and Howdy in the middle as puppies. Howdy was a large puppy born breech. I had to help deliver her myself.

An event of such grand significance, in addition to Howdy and Suzy, demanded we invite our good friends Tom and Linda Norris. They’re invested in our family and willing to act a little silly to celebrate whatever, so long as wine is served. Trudy made scarves for the birthday dogs as well as scarves for Bella, our female Border collie, and Little Jack, our Texas Brown dog. Their canine attendee scarves had printed messages that read, “He’s Our Buddy.”

A grown up Buddy

 

A grown up Howdy

As you can see, both Buddy and Howdy have almost identical markings. The big difference is that Buddy is black and white while Howdy is red and white. Their behaviors are almost identical- both being rather shy, loving, and extremely smart.

Trudy put together a menu fit for a canine banquet. It was as follows:

Mighty tasty I might add. Needless to say this menu was for the human attendees.  The meal for humans was served in dog bowls (see below). The doggies had bowls overflowing with doggie treats and favorite canned dog food.

Admittedly, ours were brand new dog bowls, but what a lark to see the humans eating their “paw-sta” from dog bowls. All really got into the spirit of the party and enjoyed their meals.

Needless to say we also enjoyed snacks and appetizers prior to the big meal. This included a snack mix, we referred to as Puppy Chow.

Puppy Chow

The tasty appetizers were largely for the human attendees at the party, but I’ve been know to sneak a few treats for our doggie companions. They were mighty good and enjoyed by all!

A sampling of the tasty appetizers

As you might expect some adult beverages were available to heighten the enthusiasm of the human companions. These came in red, referred to as Buddy’s Bonanza, and white, referred to as Howdy’s Hurrah. The dogs were served generous supplies of cool, fresh well water.

Following the meal, cookies were served to the human companions. As you can see, Trudy outdid herself by creating cookies in the image of dogs.

Trudy created cookies in the image of dogs

 

Needless to say, both humans and dogs enjoyed themselves. We celebrated our faithful dogs, told stories about their skills and foibles, and described how they mirrored our own aging process. Both dogs are slowing up. Both dogs have some health problems. Buddy suffers from a weak rear end. It gives out on him periodically. Nevertheless, he is always anxious to load up in the pickup and cruise the ranch. Admittedly he can no longer leap into the bed of the truck, requiring me to catch him mid-air and lift him in. Both dogs continue to play vital roles in supplying the affection and loyalty to their human companions.

The occasion brought to mind the Ode To A Dog written years ago by George Vest who was a Missouri State Senator. It turned out that a loyal and much loved dog had been shot and killed by a neighboring farmer who suspected the dog was marauding his stock. The State Senator presented in court, representing the bereft dog’s owner. What follows was this lawyer’s poignant closing argument to the jury.

 

A Portion of George Vest’s Closing Argument To The Jury:

Gentlemen of the Jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. Where all other other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

 

Needless to say, George Vest won his law suit!

Such strong and loving sentiment for our loyal canines, seems to me, to deserve an occasional celebration. I recall with love and amazement how Buddy as a half grown Border collie broke up a fight between two bulls and then herded our bull back across the neighboring ranch to the break in our fence. I also recall how when I was laid up for six weeks with a bad back, how Buddy laid beside me virtually the entire time. Such loyalty from a dog earns loyalty from this human.

Happy Birthday Buddy and Howdy. For our lives, you have added much.

Buddy with his place in the sun. Rest well my old dog for you deserve it.

 

Avian Apocalypse: Why Should We Care?

An article in the prestigious journal Science recently revealed that the bird population in this country has dropped 29% since 1970. The reasons given for this loss include reduced habitat and increased use of pesticides that diminish the food sources. This loss was pretty much across the board and included such common birds as Robins and Starlings. But why should any of this matter to us?

The other day I was feeding our lone survivor duck at the stock tank near our house. The morning was clear and the temperature had not yet risen to an uncomfortable range. The lone male Rouen duck (looks like a Mallard duck but larger breasted see example below) waddled up to me, awaiting my throwing of his food.

There standing before me within my own shadow stood this survivor bird. He is the last of a group of twelve we raised and put on the tank, the others having become food for local predators (fox and raccoon we think). He is a wily little duck that greets me each morning. I’ve wondered many times what sets this duck up for survival whereas the others made early exits.

I lifted my eyes toward the opposite side of the tank and noticed among the catails a beautiful Snowy Egret. This long legged white heron has been residing with us for the last several weeks. Also nearby on the top limb of the tallest tree sat our resident Great Blue Heron. I’ve written several blog pieces about this marvelous Great Blue heron, its beauty and its mythology.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

I must admit to a moment of profound awe. There in front of me were three beautiful birds. Each has its story and its own beauty. Later on I blithered on about this magical moment to friends; the profound impact it had on me, and the beauty of the birds. Admittedly my friends did not fully understand the magic of my bird sighting. Perhaps you had to be there to appreciate the moment.

Moments of wonderment like this are a major reason why we must reverse the loss of our bird population. The thrumming of their calls first thing in the morning, the beauty of their synchronized flight, and their contributions to thinning out noxious insects are practical and important reasons to protect them. Think how sad it would be if our skies were cleared of birds and our ears failed to hear their melodious calls.

Animals and animal behaviors fascinate me. Even though on the back porch of my years, I’m so glad to still experience awe and wonderment of nature. Yes, Trudy and I will continue to spend countless dollars filling our multiple bird feeders and enjoying their beauty, song, and flight. We hope you will too.

Air Mailed By A Cow

While the event to be described happened sometime ago, writing about it before now proved impossible, as it was just too painful. Let me assure you that as a cattle rancher, this was not my finest moment.

The cow in question is #36 or as I refer of her as “the tongue.” She is a large Black Baldy cow with a protruding tongue problem. You see, her tongue hangs out of her mouth about eight inches and dangles to the right. Even my veterinarian had not seen a cow with a problem like this one. The vet  concluded that the tongue must work, as she is hardly malnourished.

Perhaps it was her slightly goofy appearance that gave me my false sense of security. Rather than focusing on her tongue, strikingly pendulous as it was, I should have noticed the suspicious gleam in her evil bovine eye. Surely that would have put me on guard, if I’d only been sufficiently observant.

#36- The Tongue

In truth “the tongue” had previously been a good cow. This attribute of goodness  I define as placid, a good mother to her calves, and gentle to be around. The latter criterion is the one for which I was in serious error.

My ranch hand, Juan, and I decided to vaccinate her calf in the pasture. It was several days old. We chose to do this rather than running the whole herd through the cattle chute and separate the calf from its mother. Let’s just say our plan was expedient rather than clever.

Juan who is handy with a lasso did his roping thing, and I ran merrily in with the syringe in hand and proceeded to give the calf its necessary vaccination- subcutaneously mind you, as it is less painful. Meanwhile Mama cow stood nearby seemingly showing little interest and no apparent animosity. Or so I thought. I suppose her baleful stare, in retrospect, should have tipped me off to her explosive temper.

Suddenly and just after withdrawing the syringe, I look up and Mama Cow, the tongue, is barreling toward me as fast as a 1400 pound cow can move. Seeing I am in imminent danger of becoming roadkill, I began to backpedal as fast as my aging legs would allow. The tongue then stuck her head in my plump and ample midsection and launched me high into the air, airmailing me about twenty feet away and into a pile of cattle dung and wedged against a barbed wire fence. Whether she ran over me, I honestly can’t say, as the pain resulting from the hard landing was simply too intense and distracting. Houston, we have a problem!

There I laid amid the cow patties, lying on the packed earth that was softened only with aromatic dry cow patties. Try as I might, I could not overcome the pain in my hips and shoulder sufficiently to regain my feet. I think I did glance at the cow to make sure she was no longer in full combat mode. By this time she had herded up her calf, paying me no more attention than she did a nearby rock pile.

Finally I struggled to my feet. I did this by holding onto the barbed wire fence which is not a particularly comfortable source of support. Juan by then had reached me and was in full apology mode. This was not at all necessary, as Juan had done nothing wrong, but rather it was my judgment that had been lacking.

After regaining a somewhat clearer head, I asked Juan to fetch my pickup from the barn. With effort I drug my pained body into the cab of the pickup. I slowly set out over bumpy roads for my house and called ahead to Trudy, asking, if on my arrival, she might help me out of the truck. When I reached the driveway, there Trudy stood awaiting me and wearing a concerned look on her face.

It’s at times like this when you find out if your spouse truly loves you. There I was covered in cow manure, groaning like a woman in end stage labor, bleeding from multiple scrapes, and hobbled by substantial pain. To cut to the chase, X-rays later showed no broken bones, but I had narrowed my shoulder joint and developed rotator cuff symptoms. These have improved over the last month and mostly only bothers me now if I attempt to elevate my right arm above my shoulder. My walking was limited for awhile but fortunately healing has occurred and the bruising has subsided.

Admittedly I sometimes think back to my career as a neurologist and recall that not once, not a single time, was I injured swinging a reflex hammer! Since retiring I’ve been pitched from a horse and broken my arm, blew out a disc in my back requiring surgery after man-hauling a stump from the creek, and sustained a compound fracture of a finger after being hit by a wayward golf ball. Retirement is not for sissies!

Despite my injury prone retirement, I’ve simply loved it. I only hope I can stand up to the physical wear and tear. i have determined henceforth I will run every calf through the chute, separating the calf from a potentially overprotective mama cow. This might be good in the long term to prolonging my life as a rancher.

#36 chewing her cud and even then with tongue hanging out

Also the mama cow and I have come to an understanding. I recognize she was only protecting her calf and she appears to be her old docile self. She will be sticking around the ranch. Now, if #36 will only stop sticking her tongue out at me!

 

A Mysterious Rodent Infestation

Years ago my younger brother Jim undertook a school science project that involved white mice. In retrospect Jim admits the science was weak, but as he vaguely recalls, it had something to do with the impact of nutrition on white mice. He doesn’t recall his experiment finding anything of substance, but he does recall, to his surprise, just how rapidly the white mice multiplied. Clearly the nutrition provided in no way hindered their reproduction.

By the time the project ended some months later, the white mice had multiplied at an incredible rate, something to the tune of doubling every three and a half seconds! By the time Jim had written the paper and turned it in for a grade, he had lost all possible interest in his little white critters with the pink eyes. (Of course puberty has a substantial effect on the interests of young males.) The same declining interest as was shown by my brother could not be said for our alarmed mother and father.

The white mice, having little else to do, continued to multiply at a prodigious rate. Suddenly our four bedroom, ranch style home became crowded with cardboard boxes, each brimming with scurrying white mice. You see, neither Jim nor anyone else in the family had considered what was to be done with the mice after the project was completed. With the rapid increase in numbers of the white mice and brother Jim’s interests by then laying elsewhere, my mother and father experienced a severe case of rodent angst.

Being kind people, no one would consider euthanasia of the cute little pink eyed critters. Nevertheless, their rapidly increasing numbers screamed out for a solution- any solution, and soon.

During one of his long airline trips, my father ruminated on the rapidly growing self-inflicted mouse problem. Dad, you see, served as a commercial airline pilot who experienced long hours of extreme boredom in the cockpit, intermixed with moments of sheer terror. That flight, however, proved routine and provided time for him to surface a drastic solution. On returning home that night from his trip, he undertook loading the numerous mouse boxes into his car. How many trips this took I cannot recall, nor would Dad ever provide such damning details (you can only trust a family so far).

In any event Dad drove about the darkened neighborhoods of Richardson, Texas. Out of view of the prying eyes of neighbors, he skulked around, distributing white mice to all corners here and far of our previously peaceful and rodent-free hometown. No doubt the sudden invasion of white mice in the days that followed provoked concern and substantial conjecture. Our family, however, was sworn to silence and no one in Family Hutton would let on from whence the white mice came.

To this day I’m sure some of the old timers in Richardson still talk about that time way back then when Richardson was invaded by a virtual torrent of white mice. Theories remain as to what environmental or Biblical plaque had struck our bedroom community that lay near Dallas. I imagine the rock-ribbed Southern Baptists are still railing against the evils of alcohol and dancing that brought on that infestation of white mice.

After 50 years of family silence, a little honesty seems called for. Yes, the family Hutton in the person of my Dad released the critters. His rationale was that this approach gave them a chance to survive in the wild (even then Richardson wasn’t really that wild) but desperation caused him to deem it a good idea. In addition the local cats and snakes likely enjoyed a hunting season like none they had never experienced before.

“What a good stroke of fortune”

I offer this long overdue mea culpa on behalf of my family just in case someone out there has a child or grandchild who might be considering a science project. Trust me, it is a foolish idea to ever, ever involve white mice!