The Allure of the Cow

Joe Black was feeling restless. He had been forced to go to the Hospital to have a kidney taken out and the only thing he kept thinking about was getting home to his family and his dairy cattle.

The Black family had traced their family history back to the fifteen hundreds and they had always been involved in agriculture. Dairy cattle had been in their DNA and Joe was feeling separation anxiety.

The Doctor who had explained the necessity of Joe having his kidney removed came into his room and sat down on his bed. Dr. Bruce was a decent and straight forward kind of person. ‘’Joe we found a tumor behind your kidney and we removed it. It was cancer but we were able to get it out before it burst and caused irreparable damage. I set up an appointment to see you in my office in three weeks. Once I give you the all clear, you can resume dealing with your cows, until then, please take it easy.’’

After the Doctor left a bright and bubbly nurse came in and informed Joe that he would be discharged the next day. She left a list of instructions for what had to be done when he returned home.

When Joe’s wife Marion arrived at the hospital at eight am, she was disappointed she had missed Doctor Bruce. Marion asked Joe what the Doctor had said and he replied ‘’He said I can go home tomorrow and I have to take it a bit easier, but no big changes. Oh, and I have an appointment to see him in three weeks so he can check me out one more time.’’

Marion loved Joe with every ounce of strength in her body and she profusely thanked Gd for letting her husband come back home. She had been sick with worry and now for the first time in a long time she was feeling better.

‘’Did the Doctor say anything about how long you have to stay home before you can go back to work?’’ Joe looked at her sheepishly before he answered. ‘’He said when I feel like it’’ Marion thought the answer was suspect but she didn’t question it.

The next day Joe, Marion and their son Jonas returned to their home about fifteen minutes from the farm. ‘’Jonas, I’m so proud of you. The way you were able to keep the operation going. You did a fantastic job. The fact we were over in our milk production was fantastic. I knew you’d do a good job with the fresh heifers. I think I’d like to go out and take a look at the herd this afternoon.’’

Marion and Jonas looked at each other. ‘’Uh, Dad you aren’t even home from the hospital. Don’t you think you should wait a couple of days till you’ve got your strength before going to the farm. I have a feeling your resistance is low, so you need to build up your immune system.’’

Joe didn’t say anything and was quiet for the rest of the ride. When they got to the house, Jonas said he needed to get back to the farm but he would report in later.

Since it was noon, Marion made Joe a beautiful three cheese omelet. He ate slowly and had a pained expression on his face. ‘’Honey are you okay, are you uncomfortable, do you want me to call the Doctor?’’

Joe lifted his head and in a very quiet voice said ‘’I miss the cows, I just wanted to see them for a minute. Besides thinking about you and Jonas it was what got me through everything.’’

Marion smiled, there was something about her husband’s sincerity that never got old. ‘’Okay, we’ll go out for a minute, you go see your beloved cows and then we’ll come home and have a rest.’’

After lunch, Joe put on his work boots and with Marion driving went to their dairy farm. Jonas was busy combining the field. There were plans to go to to robot milking, which meant a complete redesign of the milk house and barn, but for the moment the milk was still being sent into the bulk tank via the milk line. The cows were being milked the old fashioned way, with teat cups attached to their udders.

Because he was busy in the field, the cows were all standing lazily around in their stanchions. Usually they were out in the pasture, but today was different because gates were open everywhere.

Joe walked up and down the row appraising each animal. They all looked good and healthy. Udders were filling up for the afternoon milking and the barn was immaculate. Jonas really had done an excellent job. It wouldn’t be long before the baton was passed on to him to run the operation.

As they were leaving Marion pointed out to Joe that one of the Cows had her chain twisted around a post and didn’t have much room to move. Joe told her he could fix it. ‘’Please honey, I’ll call Jonas and he’ll come in and do it. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to start playing with chains. You haven’t been out of the hospital for an hour.’’

Joe smiled ‘’I’ve seen this a million times. It is nothing, I just have to push her head back around the post, it takes two minutes.’’

As he walked beside the cow, Marion had a terrible feeling in the bottom of her stomach. He got to the front and started pushing a very large head. Joe was exerting himself without much in terms of results when the cow backed up and put her head around the post, loosening the chain.

It was a moment of pure triumph. Joe slowly walked past the cow towards his wife. The next thing Marion saw was a pure blur. Instead of being grateful the cow had lifted her leg and with a short and quick motion kicked her husband.

Joe went flying forward and was bent over. She had kicked him in the stomach, not far from where the operation had taken place a scant two days ago. Marion wanted to scream. She knew she shouldn’t have allowed him to talk her into going to the farm.

‘’Are you okay, are you okay, are you okay’’ Marion was in full panic mode. ‘’I’m okay, damn ungrateful cow. If she didn’t give us so much milk, she’d be hamburger at McDonald’s next week.’’

Marion wanted to laugh but she was still terrified that he had suffered internal injuries. She called the hospital and told Dr. Bruce’s nurse what had happened. She told Marion to get Joe to the hospital immediately and if she was the slightest bit worried about his condition to call an ambulance.’’

When Marion started calling 911, Joe told her it wasn’t necessary, he was fine. A compromise was made and Jonas came in from the field and they all went to the local hospital together.

Over the next three hours all kinds of scans were done and it was determined by the radiologists that there was no collateral damage, Joe had been lucky.

The next day Dr. Bruce’s office called and reiterated to Marion the importance of Joe taking it easy for three weeks. When she heard about the bed rest rule, she went into her living room and spent twenty minutes yelling at her husband.

It was the longest three weeks of Joe Black’s life. He called Jonas at least five times a day, and by the end of what he called his house arrest, he was ready to get back to his cows.

Dr. Bruce examined him and explained that if the kick would have been a foot lower on the abdomen he would have probably died from internal bleeding. The Doctor suggested Joe go buy a lottery ticket and then told him he could get back to playing with his cows.

Joe Black lived thirty five more years after that event. He had been forced to go on dialysis but it never kept him from the love of his life, his cows and family.

After Joe passed, somebody asked his son Jonas what kept him so strong for so many years with the adversity he had faced. Joe explained that it was all about the love his Father had for his family, and his love for cows. Love was a powerful motivator and Joe Black had a lot of motivation.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store