Shot by Willard Jackson

Shot by Willard Jackson

Author:Willard Jackson
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Biography & Autobiography/Personal Memoirs/Adventurers & Explorers/Literary
Publisher: Elm Hill
Published: 2018-08-28T16:00:00+00:00



You cannot appreciate North Dakota farm life without comprehending winter on the northern plains.1 It truly takes a toll on life and limb. Limb? you ask warily. Yes, but not another of Rudy’s. Tommy’s—his arm, his preferred right hand. I was held in his left, seconds before he was shot.

Let me be clear: I did not shoot him. When the scene calmed, I was found on the shop floor with my wing safety secure, restraining my firing pin. So, I am not at fault. Tommy agrees. He blamed winter and still does.

Winters in North Dakota are cold. Oh, they can have warm days and may include a January thaw. For sure, if that comes, don’t count on it to last long. Standard winters see temperatures frequently below zero, way below. Rudy checked his thermometer every morning when he rose before 5:00. He once reported that he had not seen the mercury2 for three straight weeks. Shutter with me when I tell you that the mercury in his thermometer shrunk below its plastic molding and out of sight at –25°F. Others whose thermometers were readable at extreme temperatures reported mornings below –30°F. For anyone, these fiercely frigid days were troublesome; for those tending livestock they were dreadful; for Rudy who had a dairy, they were destructive, and at times deadly.

First, destructive: when Rudy rose in the dark, motionless mornings, he might find frozen water fountains, although they were ostensibly warmed by heating elements and electric tape. All livestock need water, and dairy cows require large amounts to produce milk. Thus, making the fountains operable was a top priority. In the intense cold, the job was miserable and could occupy hours for Rudy and the hired man.

As you can imagine the subzero temperatures affected everything mechanical. Anything made of cast iron was extremely brittle. Tommy learned this the hard way when he pounded on a cast water handle at the well to force it open. It shattered. More problems, then. To get vehicles and motorized equipment started, such as tractors, Rudy “plugged them in” hours before planning to use them. “Plugging in” involves running electricity via an extension cord to the vehicle and its head bolt or tank heater.3 Either mechanism warms an engine by heating its coolant. (Antifreeze, it’s often called, with good reason.)

In the extreme cold, the teats4 of some of the cows were injured—frostbit or fully frozen. Rudy thawed them carefully and applied healing salve. Infection, nonetheless, often developed, requiring him to inject antibiotics into just the udder or into the flank or rump of the cow.

As to deadly, the cold created distress for calves. If a mother cow appeared ready to freshen5 during a spell of low temperatures, Rudy moved her to a separate section of a barn. There she had a clean, obstacle-free environment for calving, but she lacked the warmth generated by other animals. The newborn calf truly entered a cold world. But it was not cruel. In addition to the care the mother provided,


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