Quilting, Farming, Variety

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rabies and Fearful Times -- the Finale

Uncle Dewey came before supper with bad news: a neighbor had killed a mad fox. "You know," he said, "that cow may be mad." So Daddy called a veterinarian to come look at her. "The only way to be sure is to kill her and send off her head to be tested," he said. "I can't afford to kill my cow!" exclaimed Daddy. "Maybe she ate some poison weeds or something. She could be alright in a few days." But the vet told Daddy he should kill the cow for the safety of the family. Mama expressed her concerns about having used the cow's milk, but he told her, "No the milk was alright to use. The disease is passed through the saliva of the animal." And then he asked if the girls played around the barn and she told him they played in the sand close to the barn. "Then it's possible they could have picked up the germs from the sand if they had a cut or scrape."

So Daddy went to the house for his gun while some other men got the cow back inside the barn. This time the door was fastened with a chain. The cow went wild inside the stall, hitting the walls, pawing the ground and snorting. She put her head under the sill of the barn, trying to get out; her head stuck and she couldn't get up. Uncle Dewey put the barrel of the gun close to the cow's head and pulled the trigger; a single shot rang out, and the cow slumped to the ground.

The cow's head was cut off and put into a container with ice packed all around and the vet took it into town and shipped it to the State Health Department. Daddy and Uncle Dewey hooked chains onto the cow's legs and pulled her out of the barn, then took her to a brush pile and lit a fire underneath. Quickly the air was filled with the stench of burning hair and flesh.

The long anxious days of waiting for an answer from the tests were difficult, and when the report came, it said the cow had rabies. Mama, Daddy, Wanda, Charlotte and Uncle Dewey would have to take the rabies vaccinations. The doctor explained the series of shots to them: each person would receive fourteen shots, one each day, in the large muscles of the arms, legs and hips, and since Charlotte was so small, her shots would be put in her tummy.

By the end of the first week of shots, Charlotte was bruised and sore; hard swollen lumps were on her tummy and she felt feverish and didn't play much. "She's so little to have this much pain; she was just beginning to gain a little weight after her bout with scarlet fever, and now this had to happen." Mama buried her head in her hands and cried.

The soreness slowly left their muscles. At first, every headache and every pain was thought to be a symptom of rabies, but the fear lessened with the passing of time.


  1. You certainly had your fair share of afflictions as a child. Thinking of all those shots in the tummy make my heart ache.
    Back then losing the family cow was a real hardship. It must have been a blow to your daddy especially as the provider of your family.

  2. I'm sorry the cow had to be put down, but at least, doing so wasn't in vain.
    It's a shame you and your family had to endure this.