I had just dropped the bull calves' bottles in their bottle holders and was walking back to the milk house when my phone rang. The caller ID told me Glen would be on the other line when I answered.
"Yeah?" I asked. (I know, not exactly endearing, but it works.)
"Cow yard. Help. Stat. Please," was his breathless response.
I took off running, wondering what on earth was going on in the cow yard.
As I rounded the corner of the barn, my phone rang again. But by the time I got it out of my phone holder and answered (while still running), Glen saw that I was within earshot and hung up. Instead, he yelled.
"Grab a rope halter."
"Is somebody down?" I asked. The only other time I saw Glen move this fast in a cow yard incident was two winters ago when Dinah had laid down wrong on the bedding pack and couldn't right herself.
I dashed through the silo room to the front of the barn where we hang the halters.
I hurried back out to the cow yard, while Glen drove the skidloader in.
Once in the cow yard, it wasn't hard to spot the problem: Ellen was tipped over in the J-bunk, legs and head flailing as she tried to get out.
Thankfully, she stopped struggling while I put the halter on her head. (I got banged up pretty bad while trying to help a cow up last winter - and that incident didn't involve any concrete.)
Glen tied the halter to the skidloader, lifted gently and Ellen wriggled right out. Ellen is a pretty high-strung first-calf cow, so I was impressed at how well the rescue went. She even let Glen take the halter off without too much fuss. I swear cows know when they've been rescued from a dire situation, because they always seem to come away from those events with an attitude adjustment.
With Ellen and the rest of the herd out to pasture, I found myself reflecting on Glen's initial phone call. At least he said 'please' this time, I thought to myself.
There was an incident during our first summer farming when he wasn't quite as polite.
The day before the incident, I had slipped on the top step in the parlor and bashed my knee on the sharp edge of the concrete.
I knew it was bad when Glen, who normally doesn't even ask if I'm OK when I get hurt (probably because it happens so often), took one look at my knee and said, "You better go to the house and have your sister look at it."
I hobbled to the house with blood streaming down my leg. I opened the door and yelled for my sister. She came running at full speed. I was pregnant with Dan at the time and she thought I was yelling because something was wrong with the pregnancy.
After cleaning the blood off the wound, we saw bone and one thing became clear: stitches.
My sister drove me to the emergency room. The physician there did X-rays to make sure nothing was broken and stitched me up. By that time, I could barely walk, not as much from the gash as from the impact of falling on the concrete.
I don't remember who helped Glen with chores that night - likely my dad or my sister. But I just sat around icing my knee.
The next morning, Glen asked if I was coming out to help with milking. I remember thinking, Really?, but telling him that, honestly, my leg hurt too bad to even think about milking cows. He grumbled something and left me in bed.
An hour or so later, I woke up to the sound of Glen pounding on our basement bedroom window. When he saw me wake up, he yelled through the glass, "Rosie's dying. I need help. Now!"
Several bad words flew around in my head, but I didn't say anything. I crawled out of bed, crawled up the stairs and crutched my way out to the parlor.
Rosie wasn't really dying, but she was in quite a predicament. She had been standing in the third space in our double-4 parlor when she decided she wanted more feed. She tried pushing her way up the second cow's feed bowl, slipped, lunged forward to get up and ended up stuck underneath the second and first cows in the parlor.
The only way out of the situation was to open the front gate and let the whole mess out. But since the cows weren't done milking yet and we didn't have a way to catch cows once they left the parlor, Glen needed a second person to help steer the cows back into the holding pen.
We let the cows out, Rosie got up and everything was just fine. Except for our moods.
We've learned a lot since then about taking these situations in stride. And about saying 'please.'
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.