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Hooray! Casemate (UK), my publisher, has decided that the hardback version of On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service has sold well enough for it to be worth a punt at a paperback version. The good news was that this required no effort by me.
I heard a cow mooing in the field below my cottage. It seemed rather more of an agonised moan than a moo, as if the animal had a sore throat. As it kept giving these agonised moos every so often, I went to investigate and spotted a cow lying on its side close by my fence. As it seemed to be bloated, I thought it was dead but then saw a back leg move a little in the air, as if blowing in the wind. I phoned the farmer, who is only renting the field. He turned up about twenty minutes later in his pick up truck.
As I don't know him peraonally, I went down to say that I was the guy who phoned him. He was on his own and clearly under stress. He replied by asking me to get into his pick up truck and drive it slowly forward to pull the calf out! The cow had been in labour but seemed to have fallen into a hollow in the field and could not get up.
The calf was already dead and half out of the cow. The farmer had put a rope round it and tied that round the towing ball on his pick up truck. Now he wanted me, a complete stranger, to drive the truck and pull the dead calf out of the cow. What a terrifying prospect. I feared that my foot might slip on the clutch and I would rip out the poor cow's innards. In fact, I did very well, literally inching the truck forward and after about a foot, the farmer called, 'Stop'. The calf was out.
It was all very sad. There was a perfectly well formed calf which should have been up on its legs looking for milk but was lying dead in a huge pool of after birth, and the cow was still unable to get up. While all this was happeniong, the rest of the herd came up from the far end of the field and literally started poking their noses around me, the dead calf and the stricken cow.
I won't attempt to describe how the farmer got the cow back on its feet but it was both brutal and impressive. The poor animal was trembling with shock and fear but once up on its feet, it made a remarkable recovery and wandered off with the rest of the herd. A partially happy ending.