It’d been a stormy week.
Regular rain squalls blew across the land like waves at the ocean beach, one after the other.
The whole crew at the feedlot had gone home. Jeff and his dog, Cody, were the only ones on duty when the late grain shipment arrived.
The driver was anxious to get home. He and Jeff offloaded the grain in record time. Running before the next squall, Jeff ground the grain for the weekend crew. A quick cleanup at the grinder was all that was needed before he could go home to a hot dinner.
Standing on the edge, Jeff kicked the last of the grain into the hopper when his footing gave way. His leg sank into the grain.
He knew, instantaneously, his left foot had been hit.
With strength born in a massive dose of adrenaline, he threw himself backward out of the hopper and landed on the ground. When he sat up, bright red blood was squirting in all directions and his left leg was gone below the knee.
He knew he was in trouble.
Jeff ripped his shirt and tightened a tourniquet around the stump, stopping most of the blood flow. Then he crawled through the rain to his pickup for help.
He hadn’t reckoned how difficult it is to start a standard transmission pickup with no left foot.
Furiously moving his right foot back and forth between the brake, gas pedal and clutch, he managed to get the truck started and in reverse. Getting shocky and mostly out of control, he mired the truck in the mud.
Terminally stuck and more alone than he’d ever been in his life, Jeff opened the truck door and dropped to his hands and knee into a puddle. He crawled towards the office—and the only working phone—leaving a track in the mud like a crippled cow at a desert water hole.
Weak, light-headed from shock and blood loss, Jeff passed out. As he slowly surfaced through the haze of pain, Cody was there— licking his face.
Jeff continued his quarter-mile marathon crawl toward the office.
Slowly, his strength and determination were leaking into the cold mud. There’s no way to know how many times he passed out on his journey to the office that night. Each time, as he regained consciousness, Cody was there—frantically licking his face—to rouse him again and continue his journey for help.
By now, rational thought was coming only in brief spurts, still he was lucid enough to dial 911 at the office. There, he waited—fading in and out of consciousness—for the paramedics.
It took a year or so for Jeff to get his life together after the accident. Even with modern technology, he had a tough time getting a good fit on his new leg. Plus, he was worried about his future and job prospects as a one-legged cowboy.
But those problems worked themselves out.
These days, Jeff drives a pickup with an automatic transmission while he and
Cody spend the summers keeping an eye on yearling cattle. During winters, they calve out about 300 mother cows—by themselves. They just do it a little slower than most.
Jeff realizes Cody saved his life that rainy night and there is no way to communicate that gratitude to his buddy. But that’s OK with Cody. He’s happy doing what working dogs do. Besides, since the accident, Jeff lets him sleep in the house. — D. “Bing” Bingham [Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. Every time he hears this story, he gives his dog an extra rub behind the ears. If you have a dog story to pass along, contact him at bing@bing bingham.com.]