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It was late, nearly 11 p.m., when a strange ringing woke Dad. He had never heard our new telephone ring during the night.

“Hey, AO, this is Doc McDaniel. I need your help.” With a name like Almus Oliver, Dad was always known as AO.

“It’s snowing like hell and I’ve got to drive out to the Rasmussen place. It seems his wife is having a baby and I don’t want to drive out alone in this weather. I’ll be by to pick you up in five minutes.” Doc never asked for permission. As the town doctor, he was too busy to be polite.

“Rasmussen is a pain in the ass, but I’ve got to take care of his wife. He has never paid a bill. I stopped sending bills two years ago when his wife nearly died.”

Fortunately, the snow wasn’t too deep and they made good time heading to the Rasmussen ranch deep in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

As AO and Doc pulled in the drive, Rasmussen was standing up by the house waiting for them. He had a large corn cob pipe emerging from his smile. As Doc headed for the house, Rasmussen said, “No, not that way. Out in the barn. It’s the cow that can’t get her calf out.”

“I’m not a cow doctor,” Doc shouted. "I’m a people doctor.”

“If I had told you it was the cow, you wouldn’t have come,” Rasmussen countered.

The calf was big for the cow, and the cow was exhausted after 12 hours of labor. Both Rasmussen and Doc tried to pull the calf but were unsuccessful.

“AO, go out and get the calf puller out of my car trunk. I always carry one just for cows like this.”

The poor old cow was too exhausted to move as they applied the calf puller. First Doc checked to be sure the cow uterus was fully dilated. Fortunately, she was already lying on her side. Doc attached the two chains on the calf puller and then used the extra pulling power to get the calf out after he had made sure the cow was fully dilated. The trick was not getting so much pull that the calf would be injured.

After one more try the calf emerged and came out with little effort. “It’s like doing a high forceps delivery on a mother-to-be,” Doc said, “but the cows take it better.”

Just then Rasmussen’s corn cob pipe fell out of his mouth into the membranes still hanging from the cow. Doc picked it up and tossed it to Rasmussen.

After turning down Rasmussen for coffee, Dad and Doc headed home before the snow got heavier.

Doc was quiet and then said, “Now you know why I love being a doctor in a small town. The docs in the big cities never get to pull a calf. In fact, I doubt if any of them even know how.”

Bob Larsen

Bob Larsen is a retired surgeon whose eclectic career has allowed him to see the world.

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