It’s impossible to predict accidents. They happen so quickly, and often times, nothing can stop them once the chain of events leading up to an accident triggers. It’s even worse if the cause of the accident can be traced back to you. Now imagine your mistake almost causes major bodily damage to your own child, that’s epic mother-of-the-year guilt there.
Every year, we gather as a family to brand calves on my in-law’s farm. I don’t mind the calves, they’re little enough I don’t feel too threatened by their presence. On the other hand, their mothers are huge, and when they feel like it, they can move much faster than you would think an animal that size should.
This year, after we finished with the calves, we brought the mothers into the shoots for their yearly check-up. This is when I like to check-out of the corral and do things outside the fence to help.
This year I was put on what we call post duty. Once the men have two to three cows moving down the narrow corridor leading to the shoot, I push two large posts through the gaps in the fence behind them so they can’t back out and escape. This wasn’t my first time doing this job, but as always, I got a pep-talk reminder to stay behind the posts as I pushed them in. If a cow backs up before I have it completely across the two fences, their momentum will turn the post into a sideways catapult, smacking the fence with some amazing force.
Things are going smoothly, when the second to last batch of cows are directed in. These girls seem to be in a hurry to get in the shoot; all three of them race forward. I thought, whoo-hoo, thanks for making that easy, and grabbed the first post to shove it into place. The last cow suddenly backed up about as fast as she ran through. Before I had the post rammed through the fence on the other side, she struck it with such force the wood ripped from my hands. The catapult moment had begun.
At about the same time, I notice my oldest son standing next the fence preparing to do his job, spray the backside of the animals with liquid insect repellent. In the seconds I had to register that the arc of the trajectory was definitely going to hit him, I swear time stood still. I should have shouted out a warning, but my insides had hurled into my throat, cutting off my ability to speak or breathe.
No, no, no, my panicked mind screamed when my son, for some reason, turned way just enough the post only grazed him in the hip before smacking into the fence. I use the word graze loosely here, the force sent him flying forward, but at least he wasn’t smashed into the fence along with the post. How had we averted such a disaster? My father-in-law, who knows his cows so well, somehow saw the impending danger, and told my son to “come here” at about the same time my job spiraled out of control. I’ll forever be grateful for my son’s quick response to his grandfather’s call. It saved him from more than just a slightly bruised backside.