While you were sleeping… I was dragging a dead cow

image Tuesday is normally when I post my riveting investigative journalism feature — at least compared to watching TV static — called The Box. Then again, normally I haven’t spent the early hours of the morning on the scene of a car accident involving a cow. Such was the case this morning at 2 a.m., when my pager went off next to the bed and, five minutes later, I was behind the wheel of a wailing fire engine with a crew of five wondering, Did I hear that call correctly?

Moments later, medics were on scene reporting over the radio that the driver was out of the car with only minor injuries. Though not audible, there was a collective sigh of relief by everyone in the engine. That’s because, in most cases, getting tapped out in the middle of the night for a car accident usually means rolling up on something pretty awful. Particularly in a relatively small town where there’s always chance you’ll be extricating — or placing a tarp over — someone you know. As an emergency responder, you build up coping mechanisms for dealing with the anxiety and adrenaline that occurs when you approach a scene, work the scene and leave the scene. Keeping that in mind, when you find out there’s no loss of human life, the result is like the release of controlled pressure in a steam kettle; it’s immediate and takes a while to simmer down. That’s when a different kind of coping mechanism comes into play: Gallows humor.

Here’s what it sounds like when firefighters wind down from worst-case scenario to not as bad as it could have been…

Capt: Team A, assist the medics once the extrication team is in place. Team B, grab some flares and set up a…

Radio: All responders, be advised the driver is out of the vehicle with only minor injuries. There are no other occupants. Cut to code 1…

Me: So… I’m guessing the cow wasn’t driving.
Capt.: Affirmative. The steaks aren’t as high as we thought.
FF1: We should still hoof it, just in case.
FF2: Sounds like it was t-boned.
Capt.: Hey! Let’s show some respect for the dead. It could be on the menu tomorrow.
FF3: Captain’s right. Let’s just do our jobs. No need to get into a beef over this.
FF3: I hope it wasn’t a cow I knew.
Me: Like Patty?
Capt. (announcing over radio): Command, engine 2 approaching scene at staging.
FF4: Since they’re Team A, does that mean we’re Team Beef now?

I’d like to point out that this conversation ended once we left the engine and went about our jobs, which included traffic control, assisting the state police and medics, as well as moving both the vehicle and cow out of the roadway. With only three hours of sleep under my belt, I didn’t feel prepared to tackle the investigative journalism challenge of identifying what is going on in this week’s photo from The Box

Unless any of you can confirm that this is a cow sienance, I'll get to the bottom of this photo next Tuesday...
Unless any of you can confirm that this is a cow sienance, I’ll get to the bottom of this photo next Tuesday…

That said, I hope you don’t think any less of me or my fellow firefighters after reading this. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of the sometimes emotional roller coaster ride that occurs inside the cab of a responding fire engine. Rest assured things would have been much different if the cow had been on fire.

And I don’t mean on a grill.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

90 thoughts on “While you were sleeping… I was dragging a dead cow”

  1. Speaking on behalf of the cow community (which I’m qualified to do because I have been a cow mascot in college bowl games many times), knowing that such a crack team of first responders stands at the ready really heartens me. Mooves me, even.

  2. Udderly shocking!

    P.S. In looking at the photo, the guy in front looks suspicious! Oh, his smile looks innocent enough on the outside but I sense a sadistic guffaw underneath that boy next door appearance.

  3. Did you keep the beef? Years ago my sister-in-law & her daughter hit a deer, they were thankfully fine, the deer, well some of it ended up in my freezer. Now I know it was roadkill, but it was fresh roadkill. I must sound really weird.

  4. Who else are they going to call when a cow is found tits up. You are above milking a job like this, I suspect you and your people were able to moo things along just fine.

  5. First responders are the best. Men and women of honor – putting others’ needs ahead of their own. Accordingly, firefighters are trusted by the public more than any other occupation. And, athough there was not a category in the survey I read, I’m sure that firefighter/journalist is trusted even more than that. And firefighter/jounalist/blogger – an unbeatable combination!

    Your work is greatly appreciated Ned. There should be a “Dead Cow Removal Award” that can be displayed next to your Jolly Lobster Award.

    1. Many thanks, Paul. And I have to agree that working with other first responders is a real privilege. As for the Dead Cow Removal Award, as you know I’m not much of an awards guy. But a life-size trophy of a dead cow is something I would definitely accept 😉

      Again, thanks for the kind words.

  6. I spent some time on a Coast Guard search and rescue team (until I lost my nerve and got a nice, safe desk job) and you really had to keep a sense of humor about you. Since you can’t drink when you’re underway, it’s the best defense mechanism around.

  7. This cracked me up! I have to say… I’m impressed with the level of “punny” a group of relieved firefighters can deliver. : ) Thanks for the laugh!

        1. I used to think golf had the most terms with sexual innuendos until I became a firefighter:

          “Double female” (special hose connector)
          “Hard suction” (a special hose line)
          “Double lay” (dropping two hose lines to a hydrant)
          “Twin lay” (same as above, but makes me think of Double-Mint Twins)
          “Hot box” (Room for live fire training)

          These are just a few of the terms used to boost recruitment… 😉

  8. Living in a semi-rural community I realise the danger that the humble cow poses to oncoming traffic. Such a relief that dedicated people such as yourselves were there to moove it. (Okay, that’s lame but you get the drift).
    And I understand the humour. I listened to a young man tell me the story of attending a car accident in his role as a volunteer firefighter one day. I guess it becomes hard.

    1. Yeah, this cow was mostly black with patches of white. Not exactly easy to see at 2 a.m. In addition to being semi-rural, we’re also a big tourist destination with two main highways connecting us. We also have sand dunes (lots of ATVs) a river and three lakes. Plus a large senior community. So we see lots of crazy things. You can either deal with it through humor or alcohol. I prefer to switch off… Lol! 😉

    1. Cow is funny in Oregon because hitting one is basically just skipping the wholesaler and the retailer and going from the farm to the freezer. Now hitting a horse is sad ’cause it goes from the farm to the horse graveyard.

  9. Yee haw Ned – you’re a full on western cow boy!! Yank on them boots, pardner!

    Glad to hear no was really badly though. (Did I ever tell you I was once a volunteer ambulance attendant for a small northern town? I got to ride with lots of volunteer firemen. Sigh.)

    1. LOL! Good eye! My daughter has me make her fondue for her birthday every year. Cheese sauce, bread cubes, meats and dipping sauces, and chocolate sauce for bananas and strawberries. Most kids her age think fondue is the name of a punk band!

  10. Ugh! On 2 hours of sleep I can’t make any kind of cow joke reference.

    I just looked for your thumb for 10 minutes – in the WRONG PICTURE.

  11. I was moooooved by your tail
    -banging head on desk for writing that out loud-

    Have to tell you that the Steaks Are Too High is one of my top 5 favorite bar jokes.Never never fail to slip that baby(dead?) into any fitting conversation. Today is Adam’s Anxiety Blog-A-Long. We shall meat soon.
    Hope you get some sleep; udder exhaustion sucks

    1. I was wondering where that banging sound was coming from. I was starting to get a little freaked out. Thanks for stopping in, R.C., and I’m looking forward to participating in the Blog-a-Long with you, as well as following your blog. Great stuff! And, as far as I can tell, no dead cows — which is always a plus.

  12. Oh my goodness! This was great!
    I’ve had “a week” and there’s nothing like laughter to bring a person back to the land of the living. Actually, it was a benefit to read this almost a week later…the comments were equally hilarious. I got nothing else to add that’s remotely witty, so I’ll just say thanks and click to the next 🙂

      1. It’s really very funny (plus I can imagine the feeling of relief when you learn no human got badly hurt or anything…no disrespect to cows, except that…well, they’re cows and apparently just as funny dead as they are alive;))

  13. I believe you did find the story behind the pic – the firefighters having a laugh after they found out there was no loss of human life on the call out! BTW, I know what you mean about humor, I was a dispatcher for a volunteer fire dept. in the small town I lived in for 10 years.

    1. Without question, you understand this humor phenomena! And thanks for your service; a good dispatcher makes all the difference in many lives 😉

      1. As a dispatcher, the scariest moment for me was when I could hear a firefighter within the house give a cry of distress which was not immediately heard by the Fire Chief outside the house. Turned out the fire had weakened the floor & one firefighter had fallen through up to his hips. Thankfully due to reduced visibility he was tied to a partner so his partner felt the sharp tug on their line. As soon as I made the Fire Chief aware another team was sent in & the firefighter was rescued without injury!

        1. That’s a perfect example of how important your role is in the safety of others, including for those trying to save others themselves. Thank you for that. We now have motion devices that send alerts to a central area if we are immobile for more than 45 seconds, or if we push a panic button. All SCBAs have a tracking device and the oxygen levels are monitored for each individual firefighter.

          1. We had those high-pitched alarms on the SCBA’s too for when you stopped moving, but this guy was still moving – he was trying to keep himself from falling right through the floor! It was scary at the time, but we all had a laugh about it later!

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