Monday, April 20, 2009

Feeling Neighborly – or – The Saga of the Sick Cow

First, it’s important to understand that this story was made possible by our new friend and neighbor Dwayne (pronounced “Dee-you-wayne.” Real slow like). Dwayne, literally, rode into our lives on a horse.

Last fall Jeremy was alone at the land one Sunday afternoon, cutting trees near the road. He heard a distinctive “clop, clop, clop” behind him and turned to find a man riding a horse towards him while holding the lead rope of yet another horse, following behind. He introduced himself as our “neighbor Dee-you-wayne” and explained that he was taking his horses out for a spin around the neighborhood because they were “gassy.” Sadly, Jeremy didn’t ask him to elaborate on this explanation.

Since that day, Dwayne has been responsible for keeping us apprised of neighborhood politics, the location of new coyote litters, recent rattlesnake spottings, the best ranch for Kobe beef in Texas (2 miles away!), and the existence of a nearby feedstore run out of someone’s home (The Golden Rooster – a one stop shop for Campbell’s soup, Advil, and cattle prods). In a nutshell, we are lost without Dwayne. Apparently, everyone else is too since his cell phone is always ringing. And let me tell you, Dwayne always answers, he always answers – with a cigarette hanging off of his lower lip and a Natural Light tall boy in hand – the man always manages to fish his cell phone out of his Wranglers just in time to answer a call.

His colorful life stories seem unbelievable until he manages to produce a picture to prove them – like the photo he keeps in his wallet of Dwayne sandwiched between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in a friendly embrace – proving that they really DID – they DID hang out. This man is an authentic cowboy with no cows, blending an old-fashioned lifestyle of hard country living with the modern conveniences of cell phones and the internet. He is hooked up and plugged in. And is the first to proclaim that he “don’t know sh*t but can get you in touch with someone who does in 5 minutes.”

Now for the other important piece of this story. Matilda got sick yesterday. Real sick. Of course, I’m dealing with some serious guilt as this was the first week I wasn’t able to make my weekly Wednesday visit to the land. My Saturday trip revealed a heinous, 4 inch sore on her inner thigh, which had swollen to twice its size - so swollen in fact, that patches of her skin had burst with the tension. Although eating, drinking, and hobbling around, it was obvious she had fever and was headed downhill quickly. I utilized my go-to-response in such situations: uncontrollable crying, because I’ve found I’m pretty good at it. When I realized this wouldn’t fix her leg, nor would the blue antibacterial spray I doused it with, Jeremy made the brilliant suggestion to call Dwayne. All we wanted were emergency vet numbers, hoping to track someone down on a Saturday who could drop by for a look. But in five minutes, we had Dwayne himself rolling up the drive in his diesel truck, Pall Mall stuck to his bottom lip, the ever-present tall boy shoved into the crook of his arm, and cell phone at the ear. “Hi darlin’,” (he really talks like this) he muttered as he walked past me and examined Matilda. Then into the phone: “Darlin’, we got a real f***ed up little calf here, and I know you’ll make it right so you just tell Jenna here what to do and I’ll go hook up my trailer to bring her on down to your squeeze chute if we can’t stick ‘er ourselves.” At this point, the phone was shoved in my hand as he whispered, “She’s a rancher’s wife. She’ll fix ya up,” and hobbled on his bum knee to his truck, apparently in order to hook up a trailer for Matilda. Wha?? What was happening?

The rancher’s wife is also, apparently, our “neighbor” (in country terms, an individual living within 1-15 miles away constitutes a neighbor. She resides 5 miles away and is a neighbor still). She proceeded to calmly tick off a list of to-do’s including a fast (quick! Be quick! – she told me) trip to a feed store where I was to ask for Mike. If Mike was busy, I was to politely wait and refuse to speak to anyone else as only Mike would have the answers. (By the way, she was right.) Armed with penicillin and several ominous syringes, as per Mike’s instructions, I was to “wrangle” (verbatim) the cow and inject her in three separate spots, under the skin.

OH. Is that all?

Fast forward to Dwayne and I each taking a whirl at this task. Turns out a very tame, 500 pound cow --- is still a 500 pound cow. And she was having none of this. In case she would not stand quietly for several injections, Dwayne had driven his horse trailer over into which we were going to load Matilda and drive her to a neighbor’s house (5 miles away) to place her into a restraining contraption. Load Matilda? Turns out she was having none of that either.

Several hours had passed and the sun was dipping low. Seamus and Rooney were separated from Matilda in the round pen and the quiet night was punctuated by their aggravated moo’s (which sound like “mmmoooOOrrrroooOOrrrOOO.” Or something). Dwayne excused himself to “let some air out the tires” (translation: pee) and I made a quiet but panicked attempt to convince Jer to just sell the cows. Just find a buyer tonight and put this chapter behind us!

At this moment Dwayne returned, tires successfully reduced of air, to tell us that he’d made a call and the “crew” was headed over to “wrangle the cow” and take care of it. Hmm. His cryptic solution sounded fantastic! And in fifteen minutes, an engine roared up the drive. Out of an enormous truck tumbled a tall, thin, mulleted man, a short man (beer in hand) with a large grin, and a young, very petite woman. Each carried some sort of rope (lariat??) or restraining device and all talked at once very loudly. “Where she at?!?” “She’s tiny. Sure that ain’t a goat?” “Bet I can toss her over my shoulder!” And all shouted, “Hey Dee-you-wayne – hey boy!”

It was awesome.

In 5 minutes the “crew” had rolled in, roped Matilda, restrained her against the fence, administered three shots (bam, bam, bam) and applied antibac spray on the wound(s). She was released and eating hay before the sun set. The woman, Davina, gave me a huge hug and called me honey, then asked when Matilda will need her next shots so she can plan to administer those, too. She also made sure that I had spoken to Mike, and only Mike, at the feedstore. The long, skinny man, who we shall call “Slim” (I’m sorry) explained that he wasn’t born knowing how to rope cattle and that I could learn to rope, too, by, “jumping right in, the water ain’t too deep.” The shorter, jovial man invited us to his ranch in a few weeks for brisket, gave me a hug and jumped in the truck. Dwayne loaded himself into his own truck, pointed to his jeans where Matilda had relieved herself upon him, and promised to send me the dry-cleaning bill. With a wink, he slammed the door but not before shouting, “I told ya’ll…I don’t know sh*t but can hook you right up with folks that do!”

I was basically giddy with happiness at this point at our good fortune for finding this little plot of land in the first place, for its proximity to people like Dwayne and Davina, and for finally, after six years of living shoulder to shoulder with others in a crowded subdivision, having the names and phone numbers of my neighbors.

I couldn’t help myself…as he backed out of the drive I waved enthusiastically, “Bye Dee-you-wayne!!!”


megan said...

jenna (& jeremy),
i never thought i wanted cows or any animals but your blog makes it at least seem like a possibility. the names you chose are so cute.
megan klein

Ebony said...

um, THAT, was amazing!

jennakl said...

You never wanted animals? Megan!?! What's life without pets? Ok, don't take my advice.

Lindsey said...

Jenna, I know it was stressful, but after reading your post I would have paid money to be a part of your Saturday adventure! This is the stuff a good life is made from.

Jessica Harwell Fiumara said...

OK, so I'm REALLY late to the party (I just discovered your blog last night, and had to start at the beginning), but this post made me laugh and laugh. I LOVE LIVING IN TEXAS.