I knew Everett from his being the part-time mail carrier who sometimes drove my home’s rural route. He was also a subsistence farmer who had veggie plots, chickens, and some goats who wandered at will despite attempts to corral them. While the Houdini goats were cause for resigned amusement, the predicament of a cow and her calf was cause for anxiety.
Mama was a small cow whose tryst with a large bull had produced a calf too large for her birth canal. Mama was lying on her side, with just the calf’s nose and front hooves protruding. Neither Everett nor I knew how to contact and compensate a veterinary surgeon who might perform a bovine C-section on short notice, but Everett had a plan.
He had tied the middle of a rope around the hooves. He would pull one end of the rope while another guy pulled the other end in the same direction, straight out from Mama. I would be the other guy. There was no mention of the possibility of pulling with a tractor, and Everett probably did not have a tractor anyway.
Was it thin rope or thick twine? Either way, it was old and frayed. (Before we started pulling, it was not quite so badly frayed as in the image above.) As we pulled, I feared that either the rope would break or some boots would lose traction. Either way, one or both of us would suffer an ignominious pratfall in the barnyard’s morass of mud and manure.
The rope held. So did our boots. Mama endured the ordeal with quiet stoicism, as her calf emerged slowly. Both survived.
My one and only obstetric accomplishment was decades ago, long before the 2016 election saw the USA’s ignominious pratfall into what passes for conservatism nowadays: a morass of mud and manure, with quicksand too.
Along with many others now, I am once again pulling on a frayed rope. Constitutional democracy has been badly frayed by dark money, gerrymandering, troll farms, and vote suppression. Will it hold long enough to extract my country from the morass? (We need two unlikely wins in Georgia on 2021-01-05 to flip the Senate.) When the future looks bleak, I think back to Everett’s frayed rope. We pulled; it held.