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The Life of the Real "Special Ed"

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Special Ed and Runaway shortly after his birth

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Special Ed at 6 mos.

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Special Ed at 1 year.

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Special Ed at his feeding trough.

Ed was born on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, at Little Rock Chalk Ranch in Cross Plains, TX. That day started out at 35° and reached up into the low 60s.  Ed looked like every other calf on our ranch.  His dame was a big Brangus cow named Runaway (because she was always running away!) and his sire was a gentle Hereford bull named Cal.  He stood up and nursed right away, which is a good sign for a newborn.  The next few days were cold, but above freezing, and Ed & Runaway were settling in the pen together just fine.

On Saturday, December 3rd, a freak storm came in around 11 a.m., and the temperature plummeted to 0°.  The wind picked up, and the snow came down in thick flakes. When we checked on Ed, he wouldn't get up and he wouldn't nurse.  He was limp and shivering from the cold.  My husband, Jim, and my nephew, Aaron Evans, laid some hay in the back of our golf cart and put Ed in it.  They drove him to the main house on Rock Chalk Ranch and tried to bottle feed him, but he wouldn't suck on the nipple. So Jim put a tube down his throat to give him some colostrum.  (Colostrum is the first milk the mother cow produces that is rich in nutrients for her calf and you can get it in powdered form.)

At that time, we did not have a barn, so Jim parked the cart with Ed in the driveway, and we tended to him during the night.  The next day was Sunday, and Jim had to leave.  He didn't think Ed would make it through another night, but Jim told us if Ed did, then take him to the veterinary office on Monday morning.  It was still bitter cold, and I didn't want to leave Ed in the cart another night.  So I fixed a place for Ed in the closet under our stairs.  I put hay down on the tile and plugged in an oscillating heater.  Aaron carried Ed into the house, and he laid him on the hay.  I had the heater blowing gently back and forth on him as he lay still.  We continued to tube feed him during the night.  At one point he was turned in the opposite direction, so we knew he had gotten up and moved a little - a hopeful sign.

Ed was still alive on Monday morning, so Aaron put a 1" x 12" board across the back seat and laid Ed on it.  We took him to Coleman Veterinary Clinic and managed to guide him in as he stood up and stumbled through the door.  It was determined that Ed had "weak calf syndrome" exacerbated by hypothermia.  The veterinarians encouraged us to let nature take its course and allow Ed to die.* (see note below)  I wouldn't have ANY of that!

So, Ed became known as Special Ed.  First, he had to learn to nurse, so we transported Runaway to the clinic.  The vets and their staff would milk Runaway and then teach Special Ed to suckle her milk from a bottle.  Once he mastered that, they had him nursing directly from her.  When they felt confident that Special Ed was nursing enough and maintaining his weight, we brought them both home.  Special Ed managed to stand, but stumbled around a lot.  We noticed that his front hooves had a tendency to turn under as if he were walking on his "tippy-toes."  The real Dr. Mark told us to put wooden splints on his legs and gave us stretchy medical tape to hold them in place.  It took several weeks, but his legs eventually straightened out and he could walk.  He couldn't run or romp like other calves, but rather trudged along at his own pace.

Special Ed grew slowly until he was about one year old, then stopped growing and stayed small.  He was usually off in his own world at the far end of the big pasture on Little Rock Chalk Ranch.  On those days, we wouldn't make him come up with the other cows and calves to feed, but would drive to him and give him his food.  When he did come up with the others to feed, he had his own pen.  This was to keep the big cows from pushing him around and allow us to give him extra supplements of vitamins and minerals in his food.  Special Ed did look different - he tilted his head to the right, hunched his shoulders, and his hide really was furry like a buffalo.

Friends and neighbors around town heard our stories of Special Ed and his sweet nature.  Some thought we were foolish to keep him, but most understood why we loved him. 

On December 9, 2014, Special Ed died.  We mourned his passing just as we would any beloved pet and laid him to rest in the big pasture where he spent most of his time.  My friend Linda Burns encouraged me to write a book about him... and so I finally did.

*Photos courtesy of Rock Chalk Ranch.

*Note: Let me say that it is not my intent to portray the veterinarians and staff at Coleman Veterinary Clinic

as being insensitive or cruel in suggesting that we let Special Ed die.  We are in the ranching business to make money. 

The cost of feed, water, and medical bills for Special Ed would never be recouped.  He would just be an expensive pet.

Rather, they took special care of Ed and Runaway during the week while he was learning to nurse.

  Later on, they showed us how to put the splints on his legs to help his feet straighten out.  

They gave him shots, wormed him, and took care of his medical needs during his short life. 

We are very grateful for their concern and caring.

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