And calves need to be vaccinated.
And ranching can be a dangerous business.
These statements actually go together.
To create one of the scariest experiences of my young life.
Let me explain . . .
Dad was at a neighbouring ranch, on a -40 spring day, vaccinating the new spring calf crop against Blackleg.
I should probably tell you that Blackleg is a particularly vicious and deadly disease, caused by a spore in the ground.
This tiny spore, inadvertently ingested by calves between six and twenty-four months of age can cause death within 12 to 48 hours.
And impossible to treat, once an animal has been infected.
But, happily, almost completely controlled by early vaccination.
As in 'before-it-gets-warm-in-Alberta'.
So, sometime before July.
That explains Dad, the calves and the cold.
Moving on . . .
The calves were being shuffled down a chute, one by one, to receive their vitally necessary little jab.
All was going well.
One group finished.
Another being sorted into the catch pen for further shuffling.
Meanwhile, Dad had placed his pistol syringe under his coat to keep it, and the vaccine it contained, from freezing.
Remember? Minus 40?
One of the animals in the pen bumped into him.
The syringe pricked the skin of his belly.
Those needles are sharp for a reason . . .
He could only have taken in a very minute amount of the Blackleg vaccine.
But it was enough.
By the time he finished with the herd, he knew he was in trouble.
He drove himself to the hospital.
And stayed there.
For three weeks.
He was a very, very sick man.
But his strong constitution and normally healthy lifestyle finally tipped the balance and he began to respond to treatment.
At the end of the third week, a thinner, whiter version of my father returned home.
My brave mother hadn't explained, at least to the younger half of the family, exactly what was wrong with Daddy.
We knew he was in hospital, but had no idea why.
Or how serious it was.
It was only years later that I found out the whole story.
Okay. Much too late to panic now.
But we learned several things from this experience:
- Vaccine for calves should really only be given to calves.
- People don't respond well to it.
- Never hold one's syringe under one's coat.
- Don't vaccinate in the cold.
- So all vaccinating should be done in . . . Arizona.
- And you might just work in a little holiday at the same time . . .
You heard it here first.