It was Sunday evening after church. Vicki and I had just turned in our driveway and could see our house in the grey twilight a few acres down the gravel driveway through the pasture. As we neared the cattle pond on the right side of the driveway, we noticed a commotion among the three calves in our small, nine cow herd.
One of them seemed to be thrashing through some low shrubs and small trees that formed a barrier between the driveway and the pond. This is not unusual behavior for a calf; they are quite playful when they are young, but instead of continuing straight through the bushes the little calf stopped short as if it had suddenly come to the end of a leash. Vicki and I looked at each other and pulled the car closer.
When we pulled up beside the calves we could see that one of them had gotten a cable wrapped tightly around its neck which was now also wrapped around the trees and bushes that the calves had been playing in. The little calf was beginning to panic and to pull against the cable which caused the cable to begin to constrict. As we stepped out of the car, one of our favorite cows was starting to choke to death. I started praying.
Reed was this calf’s name. We have such a small herd that we name them and often feed them by hand. Our favorite cow is a small, gentle, black and white we named Panda due to the pattern on her face and her general coloring. Panda’s first and only calf is Reed. Reed inherited his mother’s calm, gentle nature and is always the first in the herd to approach us and want a head scratch. We’ve become quite attached to him.
My wife and I realized that unless we got that cable off of Reed’s neck he was probably going to die. As we jumped back into the car we could hear him choking and gasping for air. While Vicki searched for a pair of wire cutters big enough I called Vicki’s father (who lives down the road and owns every tool known to man) and with panic in my voice, described the situation.
Vicki located the wire cutters and I grabbed some work gloves as we ran back out the door. As we once again approached the place where Reed was entangled we could see all nine cows now gathered around Reed as he knelt in the grass. Hearing the commotion and thinking danger was present the small herd had encircled Reed. Normally, this is a good thing and the larger, older cows protect the smaller, younger ones but at that point it just made things more difficult.
Because of the way Reed knelt, we couldn’t tell if he was still alive. Fortunately, as we got out of the car we could still hear him gasping for breath so we knew he was still holding on. I cautiously approached with my wire cutters in hand being careful not to spook the other animals. Reed began to stir and shy away, still in a panic, and I couldn’t get my wire cutters close enough to him to cut him free.
The next best option was cutting the cable where it was wrapped around the tree which would at least keep the cable from getting any tighter around Reed’s neck. Despite my best efforts my wire cutters and my strength were not enough to cut the cable. As I kept praying and kept trying I heard the sound of a truck behind me and knew that Vicki’s father, Richard, had arrived.
Richard had tools in hand as he exited the truck and I apprised him of the situation. Despite almost being run over by the other calves in their distress and by Reed as he began to thrash around again, Richard was able to get the cable cut right where it wrapped around the tree. Reed pulled away slowly, head down and in obvious pain and the heard encircled him again.
At this point it was raining and I was still in my church clothes so Vicki sent me home to change while she and Richard tried to devise a plan to get Reed still long enough to remove the cable. I took the chance to get quiet and still and get on my knees and ask the Lord to intervene. I asked the Lord to protect us and to help us save Reed who could now breathe but would not be able to eat or drink unless we could get that cable off of him.
The plan was for Richard to try and rope Reed (a tricky proposition at the best of times, it would be even more difficult in the rain) and tie him to the nearest available tree while Vicki and I tried to keep the other cows from interfering. I don’t know if it would have worked because God had a much better plan.
As I once again exited the house I saw the herd, with Reed, had turned towards the corral. In all of the 40 acres of pasture and woods, the 25 foot by 25 foot cattle corral is the one place where you could enclose a cow and separate it from the rest of the herd and that is exactly where they were headed. I continued watching as Richard, with minimal effort, managed to coax Reed into the corral.
Richard entered the corral behind Reed. Vicki and I, with the help of Vicki’s mother, worked on getting the large swinging door of the corral shut. With only a small gap in the corral remaining, we hit an obstacle. A two foot long post is inserted into the ground very close to where the corral door closes to act as a doorstop and this one would not come out to allow us to completely close off the corral.
I prayed and put my hands on the now slick, wet post and began to pull and to wiggle it around in the hole to try and get it loose. At what felt like a centimeter at a time, it started to come out of the ground. With a final tug and twist the post popped out of its hole and the door was shut.
What happened next is not completely clear to me. All I know is that I looked Reed in the eye and spoke to him through the slats in the corral and he seemed to calm down. Richard approached him and was soon able to grasp the loose end of the cable and Reed bucked and gave a little shake of his head and the cable fell off!
We all stood there looking at each other not really sure what had just happened. We quickly opened the corral back up to let Reed join his mother, which he did happily if not vigorously. We could tell he was still hurting, but he was definitely going to make it.
All I can say about this story is that it is completely true and I am sure that God intervened. I have no other explanation for the herd turning towards the corral, for a post that had been stuck in the ground and not moved for months suddenly breaking free, and for a cable that had been twisted and tightly wrapped around the neck of an innocent calf suddenly falling off with a touch. God answered our prayers that night and I give Him all the praise and glory and I promised that this was a story that would be shared.
Thank you, Lord, for showing up just in time and always giving us just what we need!