Tag Archives: Charles

Cow Who Couldn’t Stand

Through almost fifty years of veterinary practice, Charles brought home some mighty interesting things. I never knew what he might have in his hands or his truck. If he’d been to Barry Lee’s on a late afternoon call he’d often have a pound of butter or a dozen brown eggs. If he’d been to Mr. Ready’s on a September day he might have an exam glove full of grapes. From any number of generous farmers and their wives he might bring tomatoes, peas, potatoes, onions, corn, squash, cabbage, greens. But one of the most unusual loads he brought home was a paralysed cow.

Former governor of Florida, Leroy Collins, had a herd of thirty or so cows on a modest parcel of land in Grady County and would call for a veterinarian from time to time to castrate calves or give inoculations. He was very tenderhearted, Charles said, and couldn’t stand to watch when the calves were being cut, would wander off to inspect a fence or something while they did their work. He was in his eighties probably, a tall slender elegant man who spoke, as one might imagine, with authority. There was no doubt he expected his requests to be filled.

One day he called and Dr. Maddox responded. Governor Collins said he had a cow who had calved and was no paralysed. Dr. Maddox gave her shots and said normally a cow with nerve damage following calf delivery would get up in several days but it could be weeks or even months.

A week later Governor Collins called and said the cow still wasn’t up. Dr. Hall, our bright red-headed veterinary employee straight from Auburn, went to help. He saw the cow up and gave her more shots. He reported that the cow was find, just couldn’t move. One night Charles told us at the dinner table that Governor Collins had called again and this time he was the large animal veterinarian on call. He told us how Governor Collins instructed him by phone to “Come down and euthanize that poor cow and dispose of her.”

“So is that what you did, Dad?” asked William slathering butter on hot homemade bread.

Charles reached for another fried pork chop and cut into it before he answered. “Not exactly. Well, see, I got there–just while ago. It was late and I had nobody to help me. The cow looked bright-eyed so I sat her up cow fashion with her feet in front. She looked good. I mean–sure, she’s losing some weight and her hide’s sort of skinned up. But, really, she looked good. So I gave her an anti-inflammatory shot and pumped her up with vitamins, refilled her watering tub and checked that she could reach her food, and left her there.”

“Did you call Governor Collins?” I asked.

“Oh, sure. I told him not to give up on her yet. At least give her a few more day.”

The next time I heard about the paralysed cow was about a week later when Charles drove into the barnyard with her. He and Noah, a big strong dark-skinned fellow who worked for us then, had managed even in a slippery light rain, to pile that cow on a little low two-wheeled trailer and bring her home.

“Did Governor Collins give you the cow, Dad?” quizzed William as he tried to help sliding her off the trailer.

Charles didn’t answer until the three guys had managed with great groaning and maneuvering to move her to a nice place under a pecan tree. Our pasture was already dotted with ten half-grown calves which Charles had taken on his half of a payment for a veterinary bill. He set the cow up “cow-fashion,” as he called it, and then leaned against his truck to catch his breath.

Taking off his hat, he ruffled his sweaty hair. “Governor Collins called and asked if I knew of a farmer who might want to fool with this cow. I told him most farmers didn’t have time to nurse one this long. But I’d see what I could do.”

Charles was the farmer who took the cow. He nursed that cow so tenderly. Well, someone who works with small animals might not perceive his actions as very tender because it takes a lot of energy and oomph to move a cow from one side to the other twice a day. He’d hold her by whatever handle he could, sometimes with William’s help, and he’d heave-ho. He’d set food and water in her reach. He sprayed her to keep insects away. And he talked to her. For six weeks.

The day that cow walked, Charles really was jolly as he told us about finding her down the far side of the pasture grazing as if it was the most normal thing to do.

When Charles tells this story he says he never charged Governor Collins for “disposing” of his cow, but neither did he report that he kept her himself. He just wanted to see if he couldn’t nurse her out of that paralysis. And, he says with a sheepish grin, when he took her along with those calves to market, he didn’t make a penny above the cost of the feed they’d all eaten!

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10

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Ready’s Wild Cow–a riding shotgun story


Same veterinarian, different truck


Mr. Robert Ready worked hard at a public job so it was often late afternoon when  he called Charles for veterinary help. Thus, I remember several times late in the evening going to his place off the Camilla highway, out Ready Road, then bumping down a winding trail of a road to the back side of a rolling pasture. Mrs. Ready worked “in town” also and was usually still not home or thoroughly busy cooking or canning or tending her roses. She didn’t come out to help round up cows. Mr. Ready, a tall thickly built man, always wore a dark gray uniform and a canvas hat both of which were not only wet with sweat, but showed signs they’d been that way many times before.

Charles never grumbled when he discovered a cow needing to deliver but still loose in a ten acre pasture. He’d speak cheerfully to Mr. Ready and begin hauling out rope and whatever was needed to catch the cow without tranquilizing her. If he shot her with the tranquilizer we’d have to wait fifteen minutes for the medicine to take effect, then deal with a cow unsteady on her feet whose contractions might have all but stopped.

On one occasion I particularly remember Mr. Ready pointed out the patient amongst sister cows, calf feet showing under her hiked tail. “She’s a gentle one, Doc. We should be able to get her easy.”

When Charles walked toward her she quickly suspected it was she he was after and, smelling trouble, she ran awkwardly down to a clump of tag alder near a swampy area.

“We’ve got to keep her out of that swamp,” said Charles. To me, innocently watching from the passenger seat, he said, “You’re going to have to drive down to the edge of those woods.”

I slid over obediently thinking, “That’s fine as long as I don’t get too near the swamp.”

Before I even reached the woods, the men had flushed the cow out of there and here she came up the sloping pasture again. Charles yelled, “Let me hop on the back of the truck. I’ll have to lasso her.”

He, of course, did not hear my groans.

Thus began a hair-raising journey around and around Mr. Ready’s pasture. Charles yelled, “To the right, the right, the RIGHT! No! the LEFT! Closer, speed up, STOP! To the left, the left I said, the LEFT! No, the right!”

We rocked wildly over terraces, spun through wet places, flew to the right, suddenly sped to the left. My heart was pounding and the fear of running over the cow or Mr. Ready made my palms slick on the wheel.

When it was all over, cow roped to the back end of the truck, calf delivered, a live one that time, I think, I hovered near hoping for some nice words about my skillful driving. But they never came. I think Charles was pretty well convinced I didn’t know right from left, slow from fast. When we left, Mr. Ready lifted his hat to me revealing dark hair drenched in sweat. He grinned and said, “Nice to see you, Mrs. Graham.” Was that all? I got that much just sitting idle in the truck.

Mr. Ready was the one who used to send me grapes which Charles brought home in a clean examation glove. Those gloves are about two feet long, hold a lot of grapes! I was much more successful making grape jelly than driving a cowboy truck!


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I’ve Got the Joy!


Some cousinly joy


Remember the song called “Joy In My Heart”?

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”

What has brought you joy lately?

There are plenty of things that have splashed pain and suffering, caused disillusionment and disappointment, spurred anger or brought on bewilderment, horror and grief. Hurricanes, earthquakes, threats of war and more war, heartaches, surgeries, accidents, deaths….

But stop right now and consider what has caused you joy.

Here are a “couple” of joy moments I’ve experienced lately.

Six-year-old Charli, my granddaughter’s daughter, asked Jesus to be her Savior a few weeks ago. I was privileged to be the one to talk to her and pray with her the night she announced she wanted to give her heart to Jesus. We all rejoiced with her and her big sister the day they were baptized. Last Sunday was her first opportunity to participate in taking the elements as our church gathered for what we call “The Lord’s Supper.” Charli sat beside me and I explained to her the meaning of this symbolic meal and manners for same, stressing that it is a time to remember what Jesus did for us. It was a joy to receive unleavened bread and grape juice with this little girl for her very first time. She was filled with awe and was very careful to hold her tiny glass steady until the very right moment to drink.

Another joyful moment occurred this week when I made my weekly visit to a nearby assisted living facility. We talked about fears. We all have them, some worse than others. Following our discussion about how we need so much to trust in Jesus when we are afraid, we sang “He Keeps Me Singing.” These folks usually enjoy the singing but not all of them open their mouths and actually sing. That day everyone, even Jack, sang the words: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know. Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.” Some of their voices were weak and quavery, but their faces were full of light.

One morning recently Charles called me to see something out the breakfast room window. I didn’t get there in time. He described the bird, said it had been swinging on the hummingbird feeder. A few minutes later I saw the bird myself, and incredibly beautiful black headed bird with orange breast, similar to an orchard oriole or a black headed grosbeak but not matching either one. The sight of that beautiful bird brought me joy as did the sharing of that special moment with my soulmate.

The phone rang. My friend had called to tell me our mutual friend’s son had just died in Washington State. As Sue and I prayed and cried together, the word joy didn’t come to mind. But later, as I thought about the sorrow we shared, I realized what a joyful thing it is to have a Savior Who understands our deepest griefs–and to have human friends, too, with whom to cry.

I turned 75 last Sunday. I have received such thoughtful gifts, cards, phone calls, and Facebook messages. What a joy to have dear caring friends and family! Charles even took me on a jaunt to the sea coast which brought us both joy, mystery, and adventure. More about that another time.

What has been your most recent moment of joy? Think about it.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10d

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“Mr. Tabbo”– A Riding Shotgun Entry


A veterinarian must, of course, care enough for animals to be able to hurt them in order to help them, must be dedicated to giving them the best of healing care. But he/she must also care deeply for the animals’ caretakers/owners/family. Charles has always been wholeheartedly dedicated both to helping the animals and their people. He never misses a chance to go way beyond requirements in order to help. He also greatly enjoys the many characters he gets to know. He’s always been good to tell me about the folks and animals he encounters. Sometimes his descriptions are sad and pitiful, others just downright funny. Of course Charles himself is part comedian and loves to pass along a good story.

One of the characters he enjoyed telling me about was “Mr. Tabbo,” (Talbot) Jones.

I knew Tabbo myself because he was the man who fixed our washing machine when it was vomiting and spewing all over the back porch. “Mr. Tabbo” had an unimpeachable reputation: he could fix anything.

With one glass eye, a dark shadow of beard across a tobacco-swollen cheek, he’d slide out of a pickup truck stocked “to the gills” with every imaginable current and ancient part. When he left with a cheerful thanks for a modest payment, there would be greasy black fingerprints on washing machine/dryer/refrigerator. But who minded cleaning up when the machinery now worked?

Tabbo had earned a pin for twenty-five years of perfect attendance at First Baptist Church Sunday school. He never stayed to church, but he was always in Sunday school, the class of old men named the Scrap Iron Class. He didn’t stay for church because there was always someone, he was sure, who would be desperately needing some help with a warming deep freeze or a leaking refrigerator. “But,” he told me once, philosophizing on my back porch, “I tell ’em ain’t nothing so bad it can’t wait one hour for me to go to Sunday school. Take your husband now. Same way with him. He’s got to put ’em off sometimes so’s he can get to church. But I know Doc’ll come soon as he can. He ain’t gonna be unreasonable. That’s what I like about him, he’ll come soon’s he can, so I try to come soon, too.”

Tabbo’s truck was, as I said, packed up even to the top of the bed with what appeared thrown-in-at-random greasy and rusty parts. The back end of his truck nearly touched the pavement with its weight! But he could always locate the piece he wanted quicker by far than a salesperson in a bright shiny store. With a grin, he’d heft out a hose or gasket and say, “Just happen to have this here took off an old machine. It’ll get you going and probably outlast your machine.”

If  Tabbo’s truck was a legend, his barn was even better (worse?). When I rode there with Charles we turned in at a washed-out old painted sign which said “Jones Dairy.” (This is not to be confused with the dairy farm of Gene and Esther Jones near Whigham.)

“This is a dairy?” I asked and Charles chuckled. “Not anymore. Tabbo raises beef now.”

Charles had been telling me about the barn whose roof was supported by its contents, but it took seeing it to believe it. Manure had built up so high you had to walk up a slope to get in the center aisle. Better duck or you’d knock your head in the rafters. If you looked to either side you’d see stalls stuffed with more parts like those in Tabbo’s truck, stuffed in tightly like dressing in a turkey, all the way to the roof. The roof was patchy, but it couldn’t leak, I guess, because there were dryer backs and metal discs, etc. etc. crammed against the holes.

Tabbo was cheerfully negative as usual when he greeted us on one particular cow call. “World’s going crazy,” he grumbled. “Ain’t nothing like it used to be. Take this darn cow, fer instance. When I were a young sprout we never called a vet to the cows.”

“But you lost some too, didn’t you?” asked Charles giving the cow a friendly whack on her rump before stabbing her with a shot.

“Not as I remember. Maybe one or two. Not that many. Now, one looks a little pekid, we call the doc.”

“Yeah, times change. New washing machine and new cows.” Charles grinned.

It was an event when Tabbo bought a new truck. For a while it was neat, but I was nervous when I called for help, afraid he wouldn’t find what he needed. The messier his truck became, the less likelihood Tabbo would say he’d have to run home and search his barn, or worse, actually have to go buy a part.

Tabbo had two sisters, RaeNell and Angelea. Very shy ladies, they loved their many cats, at least fifteen at one time. They asked for a house call each year for vaccinating their cats for rabies. The cats were in stacked crates when Charles arrived. They’d been gathered, some of them hissing and scratching, from all around the house and barn.

Tabbo and his sisters eventually moved to a nice assisted living home named Magnolia Place where we visited them numerous times, particularly RaeNell who is still there. She told me recently that she went on a high school graduation trip to New York in about 1939. Her mother sold a cow so she could go, and Tabbo did her chores for her while she was gone.

RaeNell and Tabbo enjoyed telling Charles and me about when they had lived in the old log house in Cairo which was our home for forty-two years. RaeNell was born there in 1924 and has a clear memory of the kitchen being “out back,” then finally moved to connect with the long dog-trot hallway. Tabbo remembered standing at a northern window in November of 1918 listening to the courthouse bell ringing in celebration of the end of World War I. “After that,” he said, “we moved to a dairy farm that was where the high school is now. Finally we moved out on the Meigs highway where you know us.”

Charles has a favorite quote: “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Judging by that, he hasn’t worked very many days!


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