Column by the Rev. Dr. Clay Smith: Runaway yearling...


At the ranch, we have half a dozen waterholes to provide water for the cows. They are dug out with a backhoe, down about 20 feet or so. The water table is usually high enough to fill the water holes up and provide water for the cattle.

Florida gets hot in the summer. You may think it's hot at Disney, but try being a 1,200-pound cow when it's 98 degrees and 100% humidity. It doesn't take long for a cow to discover it can get into the waterhole and cool off a bit. The problem is the cows track mud into the waterholes, and they begin to get shallow and dry up. The sides cave in, and the waterhole eventually becomes a mudhole. The solution: Dig out the waterholes again.

A few years ago, my brother Steve was showing the backhoe man which waterholes needed to be dug out. They came to one waterhole that had dried up completely. All that was left was a muddy bog. Stuck in the mud was a 500-pound yearling (a cow about a year old). Obviously, a rescue was called for.

They got out a brand-new rope, eased down into the bog and put the rope around the not very happy yearling. The plan was to tie the rope to the trailer hitch of the truck and pull the yearling out. However, no thought was given to what to do with the yearling once out of the mudhole. Remember this: Failure to plan brings excitement.

My brother tied off the rope and eased the truck forward. The yearling popped right out of the mud. Once freed, not realizing he was tied to a three-ton truck, the yearling took off for greener pastures. Reaching the length of the rope, his neck stopped as his feet continued. According to eyewitnesses, the yearling performed a cartoon-like maneuver, feet flying forward and up, neck and head coming back, and back meeting ground - not a natural position for any four-legged animal.

My brother got out of the truck and grabbed the rope. The yearling realized being on his back was not a pleasant position. He scrambled to his feet and took off around the truck. The backhoe man got out to help, inadvertently stepping into a loop made by the slack in the rope.

The rope tightened around the backhoe man's ankle, and just like in the movies, his feet were jerked out from under him. A 500-pound heifer can drag a man quite a distance. The man later said it wasn't bad at first, but then he started to hit piles of processed grass that didn't taste very good.

My brother, empathetic soul that he is, was laughing so hard, he couldn't move. Then the yearling tightened the rope in the opposite direction and my brother was suddenly pinned against the truck. Once again, the yearling ran out of rope, neck jerked back, feet flew up and was again on his back. The backhoe man took advantage of the momentary slack to free his ankle, and the yearling took off again.

My brother is not a small man, but he weighs much less than a 500-pound yearling. He tried to pull the rope but realized he was no match for 500 pounds of panicked beef. The only thing left to do was to cut the rope. This, however, was his brand-new rope. I should explain that my brother is little tight. By that time, the yearling had run to the end of the rope again, had its feet jerked out from under it and was again on his back. It was not the smartest animal ever raised on the Buckhorn Ranch.

Steve had no choice. He put his pocketknife to the rope and made a clean cut. The yearling was last seen headed north in a cloud of dust, trailing 28 feet of rope.

The moral of the story? God comes to rescue us when we are bogged down in sin. We are free to head north or to stick close to the one who loves us enough to rescue us.

Which way are you headed?

PS: The whereabouts of the yearling are still unknown. He's probably full grown by now. So if you see a cow with a rope around his neck heading north, please call me.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Bapist Church in Sumter. Email him at