Mrs. Grace Beatty Story

Written by Dr. Wayne Kyle.

Mrs. Grace Beatty was a good and faithful client for many years, and my work for her was mainly dealing with cattle, but an occasional horse, dog or cat were presented for treatment from time to time. She lived south of Gary, Texas, about four or five miles, and about a mile or two north of the Shelby County line. Mrs. Beatty's husband, Paul, represented and owned a part of a custom sheet metal company out of Houston and his work required some travel and the necessity of being away from the ranch several days at a time; therefore, Mrs. Beatty ran the ranch by herself, and, I might add, did an outstanding job of it. From experience she knew cattle and ranch management very well and had a quick tongue to give opinions on how she operated her spread and also criticisms of some neighbors who didn't quite measure up to her standards of animal care.

Miss Grace, as most everyone called her, was very prompt at requesting medical care for her animals and also expected very prompt response from me when she called. A typical telephone call would consistently begin with "Dr. Kyle, I need you and I need you right now!" Sometimes she would add, "Turn your hat around backwards so that when you get here I'll figure you're finished and leaving." Now this message would usually mean that she had a cow in labor and unable to give birth to her calf. Miss Grace was very attentive to her cows in late pregnancy, and when she found one of them getting ready to deliver, she would walk her into her pen or corral and go immediately to the telephone and call me. She would not wait and watch the cow for a time to see if she could possibly birth the calf on her own, as probably ninety percent of the cows are able to do. So when I received a call for help, I would jump in my truck and head down Farm Road 10 as fast as the road and State Troopers would allow. At least half of the times that I was hurrying lickety-split down that road and maybe just getting to Murvaul Creek north of Gary, my receptionist, Bobbie Jean Cariker, would come on my two-way radio and say, "Mrs. Beatty called and said not to come. The cow just had the calf." One reason I would drive so fast was that I wanted to try to get to her place before the cow birthed her calf so that I could get credit for delivering it. Mrs. Beatty always told me to send her a bill for the trip even though I didn't get to do anything, because she would rather have me on my way there than to risk having a calf delivered dead. I never charged her for a farm call when I didn't do anything.

The telephone system and service was a small independent operation run by two sisters, Miss Mavis Bird, and Miss Mable Bird. Now these two ladies, along with a younger niece, kept the phone lines up and in working order, manned the switchboards and generally did everything necessary for the operation of a rural telephone system. Their phone office was the old Santa Fe Railroad depot in Gary. If you remember the Andy Griffith Show on television, and the phone service portrayed on the show, then you have seen the exact duplicate of the telephone operation in Gary. The patron would use his old crank telephone and turn the handle on the side to get Miss Mable, tell her the number he or she wanted (maybe just the name of the person) and Miss Mable would ring the number. An example of a telephone number in the Gary exchange would be 17F2. That would be a telephone on line Seventeen with two rings of the bell. Many times when I would have to return a call down at Gary to Mrs. Beatty, and Miss Mable had connected me, I would hear her say, "Grace, I got your vetinary for ya." I'm sure Miss Bird was well aware of every cow Mrs. Beatty had sick or calving or any other ailments any of the other customers had on that telephone system.

The most memorable request for help from Miss Grace occurred on a Saturday night in the mid 1960's. At that time Milly's and my children were small and needed a baby sitter when we went out for entertainment. We had gone to Shreveport with friends to see a movie at the Strand Theater. In the middle of this movie, now, we hear and see an usher walking up and down the aisle of the theater calling, "Dr. Kyle, telephone call for Dr. Kyle." Now all the while I'm walking up that aisle to the telephone, I'm worrying about the children or perhaps that our house was on fire. When I answered the phone, it was Miss Grace. "Dr. Kyle, I've got a cow trying to have a calf and we need you." I answered, "Mrs. Beatty, I'm in Shreveport (as if she didn't already know) so it's going to be a while before I can get there." "Well, hurry as soon as you can." "Yes Ma'am."

She obviously asked our babysitter how to get in touch with me and found me at the movie. Our friends, Del and Sally Moore, were with us so we finished watching the movie and came on back to Carthage. This time I really did have to deliver a calf for her and luckily it was alive. In looking back on these experiences, I don't remember ever delivering a dead calf for the Beattys.

In later years Mr. Paul Beatty developed severe heart problems which prevented his being very active, and he had retired to the ranch. On this particular occasion I was at the Beatty Ranch to test their heard of cattle for Brucellosis as part of a state-wide eradication program for the disease. We had to take a blood sample from each cow, identify her with a numbered tag in the right ear and record the tag number on an official test record chart. Paul was given the job of recording the tab number and the corresponding test vial number along with the age and description of each cow as I took the blood samples. He was sitting in a chair outside the corral fence keeping the records. From experience I can say that sometimes it is very difficult to watch other people doing something and not be tempted to offer advice from time to time. Well, it was a summer afternoon, and Miss Grace, Herman Collins (my helper), and I were working hard and fast trying to run very reluctant cows into a crowding pen, force them down a three foot wide chute and catch their heads in a "head gate" to get our samples. These old cattle would turn back on us, wouldn't go into the chute and were generally very uncooperative. Now the three of us were hot and frustrated with the progress we were making and Paul, having to sit and watch us, was throwing out advice right and left on how we should be doing all this. He was shouting commands and orders from his chair, such as "Close that gate, Grace, Watch that cow there, Turn her back, Put that pole behind her, etc." Well, after more than a little of that advice, Mrs. Beatty stopped, leaned over on the walking cane she was using on the cattle, glared over the fence at Paul and said in a roaring tone of voice, "Look Bud, you just do the bookkeeping and we'll do the cowboyin'." Needless to say, Ol' Paul took that good advice and didn't open his mouth the rest of the afternoon.

One of the most unbelievable experiences that I had treating an animal occurred with a Brahman Bull that Mrs. Beatty owned. This bull probably weighed in excess of fifteen hundred pounds and had sustained a cut on the bulb or heel of his left hind foot. A slab of tissue about as big as four of my fingers had gotten sliced away from the side of the foot and was just hanging down and out to the side just above the left hind hoof. This piece of tissue was attached to the rest of the foot by a very thin sliver of skin and flesh, and when the bull would take a step, this tag or slab would just flip up and down causing some pain and lameness to the leg. I told Mrs. Beatty that I would have to remove that piece of tissue and smooth up the surface of the wound in order for it to heal properly, but that we had a much bigger problem, and that was handling the bull and getting him in a position to do the work without us getting hurt. Mrs. Beatty did not have a corral or working chute with fences and sides tall enough or strong enough to contain this bull if he became belligerent. Now Brahman cattle as a breed are fairly gentle when left alone and not disturbed or forced into an unfavorable environment. Mrs. Beatty's facilities just wouldn't work for us in this case, and she didn't have a stock trailer that would hold the bull even if we were lucky enough to get him loaded into it. I also knew that if we ever got this old bull excited or "stirred up" that we would have a small rodeo on our hands and that we would probably have to "ketch out" real fast to  keep from getting run over by a charging bull.

Now at this point in time, we did not have the tranquilizers and sedatives that we have today that we can pop into a bull with a dart gun and render him semi-conscious in fifteen minutes, thereby making this a very simple task.

So to set the scene for this event, you have a fifteen or sixteen hundred pound bull to work on, a fifty year old blonde, blue-eyed lady, and a skinny (at that time) thirty year old veterinarian and no one else.

Finally after some thought Mrs. Beatty said, "Dr. Kyle, this bull is just as gentle an animal as any can be. I can feed him out of my hand, and I can pet him and rub him all over, and he'll hardly blink an eye or switch a tail.  Sometimes he'll just lie down when I'm pettin' and rubbin' him. If I can get him to lie down, don't you think you could maybe cut that skin off while I'm rubbin' and pettin' him?" Well, my first thought was that I didn't think we could get by with that little trick at all, but Mrs. Beatty was not a person that you would want to argue with much, and she was one of the few cattle clients that I have ever had that I would have thought could pull this act off.

Well, I gathered up all the instruments, antiseptics, and bandaging supplies I thought I would need and told Miss Grace to go to work. She walked up to that bull talking real soft and sweet and gentle-like, started rubbing behind one ear and down beside his neck and believe it or not (and it's true) he started leaning over closer to her, licking his tongue out of the side of his mouth, obviously enjoying the petting, rubbing and soothing voice. Within two or three minutes that bull lay down and rolled over on his right side, stretched out his legs, and luckily I was able to get to that left hind foot very easily. Mrs. Beatty was really rubbing and talking to him now as I very quickly and gently held the foot, cleaned it, applied antiseptic, and began to try to remove the flap of tissue. I chose not to use any local anesthetic here because the needle and lidocaine would sting too much, and we might lose what advantage we had going for us. I took my scalpel and began making very short, rapid cuts along the connecting tissue to the foot. While I was doing this, the bull lifted his head from the ground about eight to twelve inches, at which time I stopped cutting, and Mrs. Beatty continued to rub and pat and talk softly to him. After a little bit he relaxed again, laid his head back down, took a deep breath, let out a sigh and relaxed. I finished the removal of the flap of tissue, very quickly bandaged the foot and moved away.

Mrs. Beatty petted him a little longer and then moved away. After a very short time the bull sat up, looked around a little bit, shook his head, popping those big old long ears back and forth, stood up and slowly walked away.

Mrs. Beatty told me not to worry about coming back to remove the bandage because she could do that. I believed her.