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January 29, 1999

Life and Death

There is a scene in the 1987 movie The Penitent where the villagers anxiously await word as to whether or not the person who has reenacted the crucifixion has survived the ordeal.

The mayor labors up the hill breathing heavily and adding to the suspense as to whether the weak Christos played by Raul Julia is alive or not.

Finally the mayor arrives to the top of the hilltop and disappears from our sight. After a few moments where we see the worry on the faces of the villagers the mayor reappears at the brow of the hill waving his hat yelling, "He lives, he lives!"

The scene from that movie was in my head this morning as I dealt with the latest farm ordeal.

Last night one of the cows had a calf that died during the birthing process. That sad event was followed with a new drama the mother would not get back up on her feet.

The fear of the farmhand was that if the cow did not get up its legs would paralyze and the cow would die.

There then ensued several hours worth of attempts to get the cow back up on its feet. All of these failed. A forklift and harness held out the most promising hope but the cows legs were too weak and it kept collapsing under its own weight.

Finally the exhausted farmhand gave up any hope. He brought water to the mother who drank it and left saying, "Maybe she'll get up but it doesn't look good."

Later last night I went to try to rouse it up again myself. Sadly thought the cow was on its side a pool of blood and excrement surrounded her backside.

I tried to rouse her but with no success.

This morning I wasn't sure what I would find when I arrived on the scene. In the thick fog I couldn't even make her out until I got very close to the fence.

She was still there but had rolled over and was lying on her legs again.

I grabbed a big branch and went over and banged the branch against the nearby fence. She stirred and struggled to get on her feet that once again gave way.

I banged the branch again and this time she got up and was on her feet. She walked a few steps with three of her legs cooperating; one just seemed to drag along. Finally life seemed to come back to the fourth leg and she lumbered away into the foggy pasture.

Like the mayor of the small village I felt like screaming out, "She lives, she lives," but since the only one who was nearby to hear me was the little puppy at my heals I settled for a rewarding pat on its appreciative head.

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