Trees provide shade, cattle need shade; trees and cattle are a good combination. Cattle can be hard on trees however, so maybe trees get the short end of this relationship. Last week one tree evened the score at our little farm.
I came home from work in the mid-afternoon. The cattle are now out on the leftover corn stover from last fall and it’s a pleasant sight. They like being on pasture and so it was a surprise when one little heifer was not on pasture but rather standing amongst the shade on a cloudy day. There are ruts by the water tank, so I assumed she’d twisted an ankle and wished to walk as little as possible. I went inside and changed clothes.
Before I’d left town that day, I went to work out at the gym. I worked out pretty hard because I had no tough chores to do when I arrived home, at least until I went to check on that heifer. The little heifer had somehow wedged her head in between the crook of a tree where two nine inch trunks met. She was caught and she knew it as she hardly fought her situation.
I tried to lift her head higher to a spot where the trunks became further apart but it wasn’t enough to release her. I considered a chainsaw but that would cause her to thrash about and she could get cut. There was no answer her but labor; brutal, hard hand labor. I struck out for the garage to get a hand saw. I keep about three of those little camp saws around for trimming the trees so I knew I could cut the tree. I sat on my rear and slowly began cutting just under the heifers neck. Cattle know when you are there to help them and she settled down and let me work. The rest of the cattle formed a circle around us so I kept a stick near me in case someone stumbled into the scene.
The first saw broke at the blade, almost right away. I headed back to the yard for another, it was the first of seven round trips I made that afternoon. The second saw broke at the handle after about fifteen minutes. I used it anyway, until the spring sap made it too gummy to saw which caused me to change positions. I felt my biceps balloon and my left elbow ache as I pursued the heifers release.
There came a time of diminishing rewards as a result of my efforts with the saw. I could have pulled the tree down with a tractor but I didn’t have enough chain to thread it through the other trees to open space. I had already decided against a chain saw. I came upon a new plan. First I used what was left of my saw to scrape the bark from the inside of each trunk to get a little extra space for her head. Then I headed back (again) to the garage for my handyman jack. The handyman is a mixed blessing as it can either do tremendous things or open a door than leads the uncautious to injury. I positioned the jack above the heifer in between the two trunks and carefully pumped the handle once. It caught on the both trunks and moved them a little. I believe you can lift about four or five thousand pounds with a handyman and by pump number three it was getting tough. I was worried that the base would lose contact with the trunk and smack me in my head. I watched the lynch pin carefully as I made the final pump. Controlled strength is difficult and I slowly eased the handle until the pin fell into place, safely-perhaps.
The heifer lifted her head and was free. She hadn’t been caught too long as she wasn’t stiff or drooling from lack of water. She reminded of a cat who’s been caught doing something stupid: she had that look like “what, I meant to do that.”
In the end it all worked out. The heifer was free and uninjured, I got a little extra work-out which made Tuesday night’s beer that much better and the tree got a little payback. I love a happy ending.
(my radio program will be up in just a bit at www.ruralreflections.net