Find Out Who Your Friends Are

Hoosier Perspectives

Who comes when you call for help?

Published on: February 21, 2011

Lots of people use the term 'friend' pretty loosely these days. As in 'thanks friend' to someone who might hold the door open for you. True friends are hard to come by.

It's just like the country song goes, "When the chips are down, then you'll find out who your friends are. They'll be the ones that drop everything and come running to help."

Well, this past week I put that song to the test. It was fourth down and long, with the clock running out, and I needed someone who knew more about sheep than I did. The worst part was that it was 2 a.m.

It all started with a first-time mom ewe that had toxemia. Finally, last Tuesday night at midnight, I found her with a water sack out, obviously ready to deliver soon. I waited a short time, and then tried to help. There were the feet. But where was the head?

By now it was obvious this wasn't going to be easy. Apparently the lamb was coming backwards. I tied on some baler twine and pulled. Nothing-zip-nada! Finally I made some progress. I got two legs out, still couldn't feel a head.

I needed help. It was pretty obvious by now this was becoming a retrieval operation for the lamb, but I wanted to save the ewe. I was sure it wasn't good when skin started peeling off the lamb's leg.

I looked at my cell phone—2 a.m. Who do you call at 2 a.m? My vet is an hour away, my pig partner is 7 miles away, but his idea of a good sheep is a dead sheep, and I was too close to that already.

Ah! Two miles from me is one of the premier Hampshire breeders in the country—no fooling! Stan Poe and his son Stan Jr. I had called Stan for advice before but not at 2 a.m. So I dialed the phone. No one answered. No surprise there it was 2 a.m. Then my phone rang—he dialed back!

"Stan are you awake?" I asked

"I am now" he said. I'm not too smart at 2 a.m.

Then I told him I had an emergency. Within 15 minutes, he pulled up to my barn door. The two of us worked side by side, and finally got a lamb out. It was huge and dead. "Man, that's a big single for a Southdown," he said.

Somehow I didn't think this was over. He felt inside and found another lamb, with its head twisted back. Apparently it was the one I tried to pull first. Next thing I knew, I had 40 pounds of dead lambs in a sack!

Nevertheless, I thanked him profusely. There was a decent chance we would save the ewe. We suspected they had died inside, but probably only a few hours before. Finally Stan walked into the other section of the barn where more pregnant ewes are to leave. He mumbled something I didn't catch.

What did you say?" I asked.

"We stayed so long your herd increased," he said again.

Huh? Sure enough, right in front of him, another first time mom who gave no sign of being ready. One of those, 'I think I'll lay down and have a lamb now' females. She was all goofy over her bawling baby. Stan checked by bumping her and suspected there was a second one. But she kept going ga-ga over the first one. Finally, I asked Stan how much longer we should wait to check her.

"Now's the time," he said. Sure enough, he pulled out a second one, barely breathing, but we revived it. Had we not been there, by the time she remembered to have it, it would have likely been dead.

Finally we shut the barn door, sipped on Cokes for a couple minutes, and he prepared to leave. "Thanks for coming," I said. "I didn't know what else to do."

"Did you ever doubt I would come?" he asked.

"Well, it was 2 a.m."

"That's what friends are for," he smiled, just before he headed down the driveway home.