Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
WARNING: This post is PG, so if you are easily shocked, if cruelty to animals upsets you, or if you are a child with the surname Midgley or Burkhardt, then this post is probably not for you.
Seven or eight of us were sitting next to the pool after supper. It was a warm, pleasant-enough evening; coffee had just been served; and at least three conversations were going on when I heard, out of the corner of my ear, from across the room:
“… So, I took a teaspoon and put the sick hamster out of its misery.”
I immediately abandoned the conversation I was part of. In fact, we all did. The one about the sick hamster being euthanized with a teaspoon clearly was more interesting than anything else we had been speaking about.
It also turns out that this mercy killing took place at church with a teaspoon from the church kitchen. I determined never to drink tea or coffee at church again. Fortunately we never did find out how the operation was done or what the hamster was suffering from but it was the launching point for another hilarious account.
The friend relating the story was one Andy Lightswitch (not his real name), a much-loved, accomplished professor of veterinary medicine. But it wasn’t always the case. After graduating in the 1980s he was immediately drafted into the army for two years compulsory military service.
Fortunately the army recognised his veterinary skills, and tried to make use of them – even seconding the new recruit to assist farmers in the area. Unfortunately, according to Andy, many of his skills were purely theoretical. Without the benefit of the Internet back then (this was, after all, the 1980s) he had but his memory and some notes he had made during his studies …
“One of my first tasks was to help a local farmer, who had a large herd of Brahman cattle, with an A.I. programme,” he started telling us.
“Um, A.I.? The only A.I. I know is ‘Artificial Intelligence’,” said I ignorantly.
“That would be ‘artificial insemination’,” he replied, before continuing – all of us on the edge of our seats, he with a smile on his face…
“So, the way it works is the farmer needs to determine when a cow is ‘on heat’ – visual heat-detection being the most widely-used method in beef cows.”
“Obviously the farmer can’t just stand around watching the cows all day long, and this is where I was called in,” Lightswitch continued.
I, for one, was terrified at this point in the story, as I think in pictures. But I shook my head and tried to listen to him without flinching visibly.
“The plan is to create what’s called a ‘teaser bull’ to make sexual advances to cows (insert raucous laughter here) and to detect which cows are on heat without being able to fertilize them. In my case, I had to perform an operation to divert the penis surgically so that it sticks out of the bull’s side,” said he quite matter-of-factly. “The only problem was that I had no idea how to perform the operation – apart from a few sketches. I studied them for hours the night before, just praying I’d get it right.”
“The poor bull,” I thought.
But we were rapt.
“Key to the process is that the penis can’t line up with the …” he continued.
All I could hear was the sound of my going “nga nga nga nga nga nga nga” in my brain.
Eventually Lightswitch’s voice broke through again: “And it’s quite humane too. Through this method venereal disease can’t spread in the herd and the bull keeps its sex drive, meaning it has a longer work life …”
“Nga nga nga nga nga nga!”
“Sounds like an operation that should be carried out on a few men I know,” piped up a young woman to my right – a bit too enthusiastically, I might add. “Bunch of teasers!”
More laughter. Many tears.
I shifted uncomfortably as far left as my seat would allow.
“But that’s not all,” continued the dear veterinarian. One would attach a ball of chalk to the teaser bull’s chin …”
More raucous laughter erupted, before we even knew what the chalk was for: If the unfortunate bull’s self-confidence wasn’t already at an all-time low, what with his ding-a-ling sticking out of his flank, now he had to prance around with a chalk ball on his chin! How humiliating!
“The bull wearing the device mounts and slides off the cow in heat, leaving a chalk mark on the cow’s back,” Lightswitch felt he needed to add.
“I can think of a few men who should be forced to wear one of those chalk balls on their chins just to warn women of their intentions,” piped up the same woman as before …
Fortunately it was too late for the good professor to begin sharing any more of his stories – like the one about the equine A.I. programme and a motorcycle helmet. After the graphic biology lesson we fled our separate ways, still wiping tears of laughter from our eyes, and knowing we would be unable to erase what we had learnt from our minds. EVER!