Late summer, 1960
Walt and Nancy arrived home by school bus about an hour before Chub and I
returned from work. We usually have relaxing time before piano practice,
homework and supper. Last night was different.
Chub changed to work clothes and said, “Kids, let’s drive over to the field
to see if the wheat seeds have sprouted.” The kids sat on the tractor
platform as he drove toward the northwest part of our 160 acres. I was
scanning the headlines and planning supper.
Suddenly Chub rushed in the door with that look which farm wives dread.
“You’ll have to help us. Old Bones is mired down in the pond,” he said.
“Don’t take time to change, you can drive the tractor and I’ll get in the
He hurried to the barn to get a rope, a tow cable and a few gunny sacks. We
were off to the disaster area. Nancy’s tear stained face relaxed a bit as Walt
told how he’d figured we’d get her cow out of the pond.
Her real name is “Mabel the Fourth” and she’s a big, old, registered
shorthorn. Walt nicknamed her “Old Bones.” She and Walt’s “Blackbird” are
the best animals on the place. Old Bones is, of course, healthy, fat and
What a sight! Her head, shoulders and neck were above the foul smelling water
and the back third of that cow was out of sight in silt and mud. She stared at
us with wild frightened eyes. Scars on the pond bank showed that she had pawed
and flopped around and packed mud down, all day or longer. Chub waded into the
nasty water, thigh deep.
I backed the tractor up so it was in the line of Mabel’s spine. Chub had
hooked one end of the tow cable on to the tractor’s draw bar and then tied the
rope to the other cable end. He then waded into the water, put a slip-knot
noose around Mabel’s neck and pulled the rope so it fir firmly behind her
He found solid footing near Mabel’s rear end signaled me to inch forward till
the rope was out of the water and almost tight. It was in my hands, now.
Carefully controlling clutch and brake, I did what he ordered.
“Easy now and steady,” he called. Chub was holding to the cow’s tail far up
her body and he gave a lightly lift as I moved the tractor ever so slowly.
Mabel’s neck stretched out long, her eyes bugged out, Nancy walled aloud but
the cow’s body did not move. I chickened out and let the pull line go slack.
Nancy turned so she couldn’t see, for the next try. Walt was silent, thinking.
I recovered sort of, and Chub said we should try it again. Again that
stretched neck and the big eyes bugging as if to pop. I kept pulling and
praying. This time Bones floundered at just the right time! Soon her front
legs were pawing the earth and out she came! ~~~~~~~~~“Keep going! Don’t stop
yet.” Chub kept lifting on that tail as we slowly moved her forward.
Her back legs came out looking paralyzed. I drove without hesitating until the
poor thing was up on dry ground. She was alive! Her neck wasn’t broken her
eyes looked better.
Nancy ran and threw her arms around her muddy cow’s neck. We all thanked Mabel
for lunging at the right time. Chub came sloshing out of the stinky mud and
removed the rope noose. He hugged Nancy and said, “We’ll have the Vet come in
the morning, but now we must give her some grain and hay for bedding.”
“And a tarp to warm her up,” Nancy added. Back we went on the tractor. Walt
and I got off near the house and went in to fix supper.
Within the hour our muddy clothing was pilled outside the back door and
everyone was washed up enough to come to the table. Fried chicken and gravy
never tasted better. No homework. No piano practice. Just baths and off to
This morning at daybreak Old Bones is standing, munching hay; we think she
appreciates what we did.