Dilemmas, now there’s a word that conjures up all sorts of images. People have different definitions of what a dilemma is. For me it is being faced with a situation that is going to cause some sort of problem whatever way you turn. My Roget’s Thesaurus calls a dilemma a predicament, a dubiety, a choice or an argumentation.
Whichever of these things it is, it calls for quick action, fingers crossed on a wing and a prayer.
One of my most memorable dilemmas involved a suicidal cow. Yes, I mean one that says moo. She was a Friesian cross Hereford suffering from milk fever. Don’t ask me why, but cows suffering from such a thing, are inclined to position themselves next to water. This lady was no exception, apart from the fact that she decided that not only would she lie close to the water, but in it.
I watched from the relative cosiness of the farmhouse, with my four young daughters racing round my feet. My bovine friend was now well and truly kneeling in the swirling burn that runs through the bottom of what was known as the ‘Front Field’. She lowered her head, she was giving up. My heart started thumping, panic setting in. I needed to get to her, save her, but I couldn’t do it alone. There was also the question of what to do with four small children, but when you are in your twenties dilemmas like that don’t faze you. Hubby was off chasing the oval ball somewhere. (Why do dilemmas invariably happen when the man in your life isn’t around?) Dilemma 2 reared its ugly head. I knew who I needed to help me, but I also knew where he would be, and that was somewhere he shouldn’t. There was no time to debate the ethics of phoning up the home of the married lady who was the object of our tractorman’s desire; I had a cow dying in front of me.
In my most pleasant upbeat voice I asked to speak to Roy, and yes, it was urgent.
After blabbing out the words cow in river (for it was more like a river than a burn) I told him I was on my way down there with the kids and could he please come and help me. Being a conscientious sort of guy, he didn’t let me down.
I shooed my foursome into the Subaru and set off down the front field. Four little faces peered in wonderment as I waded into the ice-cold water and lifted her head rather ungainly by the ears. You would not believe how heavy a cow’s head is.
The little faces now looked very concerned, not for mummy, but for the poor cow. Her calf sat quietly on the riverbank, seemingly unaware that there was a strong prospect he would become an orphan. I cannot remember what month it was, but it was obviously during the rugby season and it was definitely winter. I had all the necessary wet weather gear, waterproof trousers, coat, Wellingtons but the icy water made short shift of it all, my feet felt like blocks of ice as the water poured into my Wellingtons. I heard a distant drone that became welcomingly louder. The red Massey Ferguson came zooming down the road to the bottom gate. By now I felt as though my back would never straighten and my fingers would need to be amputated with frostbite. I barely looked up; instead I concentrated my efforts on some soothing words, punctuated with the odd “silly bugger”
“I’m going to reverse right back. Ye’ll need to try and get the chains roond aboot her” Shouted Roy above the revving tractor. The little faces were mesmerised. Nothing as exciting as this ever happened on the telly.
At times like this, you don’t worry too much about if you are going to hurt the animal in question, (another dilemma perhaps) more that if you don’t get a move on, she’s going to be gone to the big cattle shed in the sky. Roy reversed the tractor down the banking, flung me the chains as he jumped from his cab. I cursed and swore and swore some more as between us we managed to get the chains round her neck and under a front leg. Meanwhile Roy kept giving her a slap, trying to get her to come to her senses and stand up. When the penny eventually dropped that she was having none of it, he whizzed back to his cab and started to slowly inch forward, as I screeched instructions. The Subaru by this time was totally steamed up and four little faces clapped loudly and roared “Hurrah”when we eventually got the poor beast free of the water.
Naturally her calf was on the far side, so again Roy and I waded through the water to chase the little creature further downstream where it was more accessible for him to cross. The job was done, mother was soon unchained but somewhat weakened by her ordeal. We opted to leave her out rather than put her through the ordeal of being taken up the hill and into a byre. Before we released her we rubbed her down with straw. She didn’t even try to go anywhere, but lay back down with her feet tucked in below her. I shook out a bale for her to have a warm lie, and spread more straw across her back.
I thanked Roy for all his help and managed to refrain from apologising for dragging him away from his ‘friend’. After all, I wasn’t supposed to know what was going on!!
‘Ever the gentleman, he doffed his cap, then turned to the cow and said ‘Stipit bitch.’
Frozen but happy I squelched back into my car to enthusiastic applause from the children.
We jostled and bumped our way back up the field, to the next dilemma, what to make for tea.
A few years later we built a rather grand new shed to house our cows and calves, thus eliminating the chance of a repeat performance of my Winter dip.