Bob Harris lies in a hospital bed with head and neck injuries days after he was attacked by a cow. He spent 13 days at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Bob Harris lies in a hospital bed with head and neck injuries days after he was attacked by a cow. He spent 13 days at Hennepin County Medical Center. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    SANDSTONE, Minn. – For those who know Bob Harris, they know he is a man who has had many near death experiences. At 71 years old, his latest encounter nearly did him in for good and left his family wondering what exactly happened on the early morning of July 1, 2019.
    What they do know is that a cow attacked Bob when he got off his side-by-side to check a newborn calf. He sustained a badly beaten and bruised face and head, three broken vertebrae and bleeding of the brain. Bob helps his son, Nick, who milks 100 cows on his farm near Sandstone.
    “I’ve never been knocked out like that before,” Bob said. “The biggest thing is not being able to remember anything.”
    Bob and Nick started gathering cows for milking like they do every day at 5 a.m. July 1. Bob drove the side-by-side and Nick took the four-wheeler to the pasture to bring up the cows. That morning, Bob got off the side-by-side.
    “For some reason that morning he got off to pick up a calf,” Nick said. “If a cow has a calf, he always calls me to come get it.”
    Bob was attacked from behind when he went to look at the calf. A random cow, not the calf’s mother, pushed him to the ground and rolled him into the dirt.
    From the top of the hill, Nick saw a gathering of cows where the side-by-side was parked. He ran over to Bob just as he tried to sit up.
    “I thought maybe he had tripped,” Nick said. “As I got closer, I could see he had blood all over his face.”
    Nick tried to help him sit up but Bob was in too much pain.
    “Luckily, the calf walked away and the cow followed it,” Nick said.
    Seeing his chance, Nick drove the side-by-side to the house to get help. Once they got to the pasture, Nick and his son, Lane, helped Bob onto the four-wheeler. They made it to the house, where Nick’s daughter, Audrey, had the pickup ready to bring Bob to the hospital.
    “It always scares you to see something like that,” Nick said. “But I ran to get my kids, and they were out of bed fast to help.”
    They brought Bob to the local hospital. When the medical staff found Bob had bleeding in his brain, they arranged to have him airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.        At home, Lane, Audrey and another daughter, Laci, were set to finish morning chores. Lane went to chase up the cows for milking when the same cow attacked him as he drove the four-wheeler. He quickly left to get the tractor and bucket.
    “He guided her into a feed alley and locked her up,” Nick said. “He didn’t want to deal with her.”
    The cow, weighing 1,700 pounds, was sold the next day.
    Harris’s family and neighbors also helped with chores the same day of the accident.
    Bob spent the next two weeks at HCMC recovering from his injuries. He said he does not have any memories of being attacked or his stay at the hospital.
    “He was in rough shape,” Nick said. “We didn’t know it at the time, but he didn’t recognize any of us when we came to visit. He talked and laughed with us. But he had no idea.”
    For two weeks, Bob does not recall anyone visiting him in the hospital despite numerous visits from family members including his wife, Peggy, Nick’s wife, Sara, and Bob’s children and grandchildren.
    Bob’s recovery continued at home for the next two months where he wore a halo for his neck injury and used a walker to move around.
    “He still isn’t the same,” Nick said. “I have to watch him because he is always tripping over stuff.”
    Bob manages to help on the farm with driving tractor and a few chores. He said his biggest obstacle is his balance.
    “I can’t stop now,” Bob said. “I’ve been beaten up a bit in my lifetime so this slowed me down a little bit. But walking and moving around is the best thing.”
    Bob and Nick have been farming together for 30 years. Nick said they have enjoyed their working relationship.
    “He is a good man,” Nick said. “He has been through a lot in his life. We told him he can’t do this anymore because he doesn’t have many lives left.”
    The encounter with the cow was a clear reminder of how dangerous farming and working with livestock is.
    “You can never trust a cow or a bull,” Nick said. “If they ever start getting mean, they go down the road fast. I don’t care how nice of an animal it may be.”