If you know J.R. Heltsley, DVM, then you know he’s quite a storyteller. Often it’s a long story about an animal he’s encountered, or sometimes it’s simply a short joke, but almost every time you visit with Dr. Heltsley, he’s likely to offer an entertaining tale.
Although I didn’t need his veterinary services (after all, I don’t have any animals), I recently stopped at his Glasgow office. It was his conversation I was after. I hoped he’d tell me an interesting story I could share through this column.
While I was waiting for him to join me, a photo on the bulletin board near the reception area caught my attention. Dr. Heltsley was pictured, holding a cat. There was also a snake in the photo—13 feet of snake, to be exact. I remembered having seen the photo years ago in the newspaper. I even remembered the photographer had asked the doctor to pose something in the photo that would provide a scale to the enormous snake.
Dr. Heltsley walked my way, and noticed what I was noticing. He greeted me with a wicked smile and said, “A lady once looked at that picture and asked why I was holding the cat. I told her I’d just fed the snake one and was waiting to see if it wanted another.”
Dr. Heltsley had several animal anecdotes for me that afternoon. One, from his early practice when he worked with large animals, concerned the danger of cornering a cow.
“My son-in-law Win and I arrived at a farm where the farmer took us to a two-acre barn lot,” he began. There they found an 800-pound cow that was having trouble giving birth. The farmer had described the cow as “really wild and very frightened.” Dr. Heltsley described the cow as “not looking too friendly.”
“I tied two ropes together and off we went. Win carried the calf puller, a bucket with a calf chain and the medicine. When the cow saw us, she ran into the far corner of the lot. I tried to crowd her up in the corner and threw a loop around her neck. She realized that she was cornered.”
“What did she do?” I wanted to know.
“She wheeled around with her head down and decided she did not like me. She came toward me.”
From having been raised on a farm, I knew it was a bad sign when a cow dropped her head and rushed toward someone.
He continued, “Her intent was to butt me, run me over, and get away! I ran for my life and saw that Win had managed to hide behind the only tree in the two-acre lot. She was coming closer, and I realized she was not going to stop chasing me. I ran as fast as I could. She came up behind me and lifted me off the ground. I sailed about six feet into the air. I hit the ground running and she was coming after me again. She lifted me off the ground again. I headed for the only tree in the lot.”
That was when Dr. Heltsley said he heard Win yelling, “Not my tree! Not my tree!”
The suspense was rather intense at this point in his story. I was relieved, though, to realize that since he was giving this account, he had lived through the experience. Still, I was anxious to hear what happened.
“Well, she continued to lift me and throw me into the air, but I finally got to the tree.”
“What about Win?”
“Fortunately, he made it over the fence.” After a pause, he went on, “After playing hide and seek with the heifer for a while, she finally ran off and I was able to come out from behind the tree. The rope was still looped around her neck, so I got up on the outside of the fence and was able to pull the rope through and tie her to a post. Win came to help and we delivered a nice baby calf.”
He added, “As Win and I were getting ready to leave, I suggested to the farmer that he might plant a few more trees.”