Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Thursday, May 22, 2014

One Tiny Jab

Oh sure, they look healthy now . . . Little beggers.
It gets very cold in Southern Alberta.
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.
Nasty.
And impossible to treat, once an animal has been infected.
But, happily, almost completely controlled by early vaccination.
Early.
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 was being sorted into the catch pen for further shuffling.
Meanwhile, Dad had placed his favourite 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 I did learn several things from this experience:
  1. Vaccine for calves should really only be given to calves.
  2. People don't respond well to it.
  3. Never hold one's syringe under one's coat.
  4. Don't vaccinate in the cold. And...
  5. If there's ever a blackleg outbreak, Daddy's had his shots.

16 comments:

  1. ... Daddy's had his shots.

    :-) Probably wrong of me, but I got a smile on my face from that one.

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Psst! Wanna know something? So did I!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. It was such a tiny thing. But wow . . .

      Delete
  3. I'm getting so much smarter reading your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's never too late to panic, Diane! And I'm only a reader. What the rest of you might have felt, had you known ... I can't imagine. Those people of generations past were tough. Really tough.

    And yes, it was a wonderful punch line :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That punch line was for you, Jenny!
      No one knew about it until later that evening. He just drove himself to the hospital and checked himself in. Then phoned mom. Tough is right!

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Totally. Especially after the fact! :)

      Delete
  6. You can tell a good or scary story so well and then at the end throw in a funny thought. As usual i always enjoy your posts.
    Blessings and hugs for this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No sense in leaving every scared, right? :) Thank you, LeAnn!

      Delete
  7. That is serious but somehow very funny now! I bet he and your mother were scared to death. Great story Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Things are always much more entertaining years later, after the panic is over! :)

      Delete
  8. Who would have thought such a tiny bit of vaccine would be so dangerous when given to the wrong species?
    So glad your dad was okay.
    I've heard about blackleg, but didn't know the vaccinations had to be given in cold weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A preemptive strike? Get them before they have a chance to get you?! :)

      Delete

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