–Michael R. Rosmann
Kent raised the manure-splattered tailgate of the livestock trailer to let his cows enter the chute into the Farmers Livestock Auction stockyards. This was the last truckload of his 130 cows that were scheduled to be sold at today’s auction. Most of the red and white cows hurriedly tramped down the sloped chute to reach the more solid footing of the concrete alleyway leading to their pens. There they would wait for prospective buyers to inspect them. Kent was familiar with each animal as she passed and knew all their ear tag numbers and names.
He remembered how he helped Sally give birth to twins in April 2003. Sally’s first calf was coming with one front leg turned backward. Despite Sally’s contractions, Kent pushed the calf ’s head and chest back into her uterus and reached inside to pull up the errant leg. After grasping both front feet, he quickly pulled the wet calf into the outside world. The second calf was less fortunate, for Kent discovered that its umbilical cord had become twisted earlier during its detained emergence.
Wincing from the hollow feeling in his stomach, Kent watched as Belle scrambled down the chute, and he remembered that she had produced the high-selling bull in his annual production sale twice in the past five years. “I’ll miss you.” Then Molly came to the trailer doorway and briefly locked onto his gaze as she gingerly placed one hoof ahead of the other into the chute. They had an eleven-year relationship. “Sorry, old girl.”
When all the cattle were unloaded and chased into their holding pens by the sale hands, Kent visited the auction office to tell the clerks that he had delivered all his cows. With a Styrofoam cup of steaming coffee quivering in his thick hand, Kent headed to the holding pens in the adjoining shed to take a last look at his pets.
. . .
A heavyset neighboring farmer in coveralls lumbered to catch up with Kent
and protested, “Kent, why is that cow bellerin’?”
Kent stopped in his tracks, turned, and responded, “She’s wondering what
she did wrong that she should have to be sold.”
The hefty man momentarily paused and put a hand on Kent’s shoulder. “Yeah,
it’s too bad,” he murmured.
Shivering, Kent struggled to maintain his composure. He remembered the
words of his psychologist whom he had consulted last week for his depression.
“Why don’t you keep a few cows for yourself; they’ll help you maintain your
(Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)
Part of loving rural is the relationship with animals and nature. I have my own relationships with a miniature donkey who has inspired many stories due to his onwry personality, a horse Indy who is a terrific riding partner. An experienced rider told me the relationship with a horse is 60-40. I am the sixty. Sometimes he’s right about the way home or recognizes the hole in the trail I miss. Then there are the cats, precious for the mousing abilities and their willingness to hang out in the garden with me when I weed.
In this selection Kent has to sell his cows due to financial hardship. Dr. Rosmann explores the challenges of depression and access to mental health services in rural areas. Ask questions about the mental health services in your area. Where do patients go for psychiatric help and how long is the wait? Where can patients go for counseling services, for substance abuse assessment and treatment? Often rural providers manage more complex mental health issues because consultants are few and the wait is long.
National Rural Mental Health Association has a journal and other resources.