The Spring of 1982 – Part 7 ?

I’ve left this thread for too long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it.  Most of the amazing things I have seen in my life (besides the births of my children) I saw from the seat of a motorcycle.  A meteor crashing into a field just a 1/4 or so mile away, cops in a shootout with robbers, amazing sunrises and sunsets.  Giraffes that come from nowhere and bluebonnets that take your breath away.  Half-naked women on bikes that love boys on bikes.

But later in our trip – almost 3/4 into the duration of our trip (but only about 50% in total miles of our trip), we found ourselves in Eugene, Oregon.  The ride from Portland was amazing (and yes, I know I left out a substantial part of the ride between Part 6 and Part 7.  Think Star Wars – I’ll come back and write a "pre-quel"  about that part later.

It was at this point in our trip that we really all started getting nervous about how long we were going to be gone.  At least 4 days more than what we had planned. This was a HUGE deal since we were mostly active duty military and a lot of us were working in medicine – where shift coverage for surgeons and techs was done far in advance.  We knew we were getting into more and more trouble the longer we delayed.  We were not just on day to day slip – we were on a day to "30 days in jail" slip.

So we found ourselves in Eugene, OR.  A bit south of it, actually.  And we were tired, and looking to sleep.  We pulled into what was once a gas station – right next to an active farm.  While we were talking about what to do a pickup pulled up next to us.  It was the owner of the farm.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and he told us, "bad weather south of here.  Even worse north.  Watchagonnado?"

Having not stopped anywhere with a TV or even power over the last three days we had no idea that the weather was turning.

"Gottabigbarn", the man said.  "Justuptheroad".  Really – he had ZERO spacing between his words.  But we understood he was inviting us to sleep under cover – and had warned us of the storm.  We agreed, and all of the bikes followed him up the dirt rut that passed as a road.  I’m sure it was easier to get my bike down that road than it was for him to maneuver the truck.

When we reached the farm the man got out of the truck and rolled open two huge barn doors.  The barn was immense – maybe 100 feet deep by 40 feet wide. At the far end we could see and hear cattle.  The near end was empty stalls.

"Usetakeephorses", the farmer said.  He explained that they were too expensive, so he gave them up.  He directed each of us to park our bike in an empty stall.  We did.

It was odd thinking about all of the horsepower that was now in those stalls. Thousands of horsepower where less than a dozen horses could stand.

While the farmer was very kind, he didn’t invite us to dinner, or send his beautiful daughters (don’t think he had any) out to comfort us. He just gave us his barn for the night and left. 

There were plenty of lanterns in the barn.  And their was a pit for a blacksmith at the far end with a chimney.  We could have a good fire even if we were in a barn full of hay and animals.

We unloaded our bikes and chipped in all the "grub" we had. It was an odd assortment of sausage, and jerky, candy and vegetables.  We shared it all, and enjoyed the variation.  We were warm, and it was raining now.  Not a hard rain, but a cold one.  We were glad to not be on the road.

We had a few beers and a bottle of something between us and we sat and talked story, as were were most apt to do.  The hours passed as we all enjoyed the warmth of the fire, and the time off of the road.

We finally woke mid-day the next day. It was a beautiful day – no sign of the rain from the night before.  The farmer’s wife was bringing in clothes from the line and insisted she make us breakfast, even though it was well past 1 PM.  The farmer was not around.  We ate at the family table.  Eggs and gravy, biscuits, bacon. Everything you could ask for.  While the house was nice it was modest.  Nothing of glaring value, but everything looked cherished.  Nothing was dirty, or tarnished.

We finally hit the road again about 3 PM that day.  We had only ridden for an hour when we found ourselves at a crossroads our maps did not show.  The paved road to our right was on our map, but it headed southeast.  The unmarked dirt road led southwest.  We were very late already and we all wanted to head southwest.

We took the dirt road and were not on it but 15 minutes or so when we came across a very large herd of cattle.  These cattle didn’t just cover the road.  They damn near covered the horizon.  This was a VERY large herd.  As we eased our bikes into them we noticed they didn’t move far.  They were skirting our bikes but not exactly leaving.  That is unusual for cattle.  Normally they just get out of the way, and want to get far out of the way.

As we drove deeper into the herd we ran into a mass of cows that seemed to be unwilling to move much.  They were milling about in a specific area, and even when they moved, they kept a tight circle on a specific point.  We finally pushed through and saw why.  A young cow was giving birth, and things must not have been going well.  The older cows seemed to sense this, and they were forming a protective barrier.  But they didn’t complain as we approached the young cow.

When I got close enough I saw the young cow had already lost a lot of blood.  A lot more than I had ever seen.  The cow seemed unable to move, but it hadn’t given birth yet either.  As we got close to the cow the elder cows got nervous and started mooing and snorting – even kicking up some dirt here and there.  We were surrounded by thousands of cattle – and some didn’t seem to be happy we were there.

But they didn’t bother us either, as we finally got to the cow, and touched it, and found it was still alive.  But all of the motion shown in the body of this cow was coming from the unborn calf kicking and trying to get out.  The mother was spent.  The baby was fighting for life.

Having never delivered a cow, but having seen hundreds of human births I knew one thing for certain.  The calf had to come out of the cow, and there was only one exit.  Caesarian wasn’t an option, even if we had the tools.  Nobody knew where to cut a cow to get a baby out of it.

As we were reached in and tried to grab the calf the cows got very agitated.  Their mooing got the greater herd riled and some at the edges of the herd started running in circles putting up a fairly large plume of dust. 

Literally elbow-deep into a cow, pulling for all I am worth, and having people pull me while I pull a calf we hear a gunshot. It didn’t seem close, so it didn’t bother us.  Much.

As we continue to make progress delivering this calf we hear a truck getting closer and closer.  The truck gets very close and scares the elder cows a great deal.  They are often running away from us and seemingly darting in at us.  Finally the calf comes out and the truck pulls up, all at the same time.  Driving the truck is the "poor" farmer from the night before.  Over an hour after riding from his barn we are still on his property.  And the sea of cattle are his.  It seems this farmer wasn’t so poor after all.

He was also a retired Marine Corps Colonel.  I still talk to him now and then.  I always get Christmas cards.  He’s donated most of his family’s farm to conservatory.  He plans on donating the rest.

The mother cow didn’t live, but the calf did.

And we were delayed even more.  And seriously at risk of being AWOL.  The next 6 days would be brutal.  We would cover about 600 miles a day for six days straight.  On a bike, when you have no money and often have to stop for a day for a new tire, or to earn some money for gas, 600 miles a day average for 6 days was pretty amazing.