The Book Stories From the Round Barn
Told in the inimitable, animated voice of Jacqueline Dougan Jackson, Stories From The Round Barn is an affecting addition to the canon of the American memoir of rural life. Using stories, anecdotes, history and even veterinary science, Jackson braids together a series of dramatic fragments and episodes to vividly recreate life on the Dougan dairy farm.
-- Northwestern University Press

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All stories ©1997, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson


It's 1932. In the side barn off the round barn, where the newborn calves are kept, there's a calf with a broken leg. Grampa thinks her mother lay on her. Daddy calls the vet.

Dr. Russell comes. He glances at the calf. "Shoot the son of a bitch," he says to Daddy, and leaves.

Daddy gets some narrow boards. He measures them long enough so that they'll make a walking splint. He sets the break and splints it. He binds up the leg. He calls a vet in Janesville and asks how long he should leave the splint on. Dr. Knilans tells him he'll come check the leg in three weeks if Daddy wants him to. Daddy describes the splint and asks if it's all right for the calf to walk on it. Dr. Knilans says there's no way to keep her from it unless Daddy plans to hog-tie her.

Sure enough, before long the calf has struggled to her feet, hobbled to her mother and started to nurse.

Twice a day Daddy goes down to the barn and checks the splint and bandages, and inquires into the welfare of his patient. She leaves her mother, is weaned to a pail, is in with the other calves. When all the calves go out into the field behind the calfbarn, she goes too, and manages a stiff-legged gambol. Grampa laughs and laughs when he goes past the fence. Joan and Patsy, Jackie and Craig, like to watch her, too. She becomes quite tame. They let her suck their fingers.

Dr. Knilans examines the leg and advises keeping the splint on a few weeks longer. At the end of the allotted time, Daddy takes it off. The leg looks fine. The calf has no trouble walking on it, although she does have a bit of hitch in her gait that she never quite gets over. She grows into a healthy heifer and productive cow. She spends twelve years in the round barn.

Daddy and Grampa don't call Dr. Russell any more. When they need a vet they call Dr. Arthur Knilans in Janesville. He becomes the farm vet.

Somebody once asks whatever happened to Dr. Russell.

"I shot the son of a bitch," says Daddy.