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James R. Stout

Cows and Baths

            I’ve been around cows much of my life. I’m not a “cowboy” and I wouldn’t want to wrangle the critters for a living. But I couldn’t help but notice some things about cows. As big as they are and as fat as they are, they can go places that you just wouldn’t think it would be possible. I’ve seen them cross creeks that are filled with mud and water and yet I doubt that the best of 4x4’s that are manufactured could cross those creeks. I also noticed that when they’re eating they tend to spread out and fill up several acres, but when they decide to go to another pasture, they line up single file and go where they’re going like a well-trained army. Perhaps the single most obvious thing about the cows that I’ve been around is that they are essentially what Samuel L. Jackson said about pigs in the movie, “Pulp Fiction”, they are filthy animals. Now, I’m not going to go into the depth of their filthiness, but nothing seems to bother them where this is concerned. It’s absolutely amazing what doesn’t bother them.

            All this brings to mind several television advertisements featuring cows. I don’t mind telling you that the cows featured in these ads are a cut above the regular critters that I’ve seen. Noticing this about the TV cows caused me to wonder. It’s not like cows are smart enough to follow directions and go take a bath. That means there is some poor person whose occupation is to bathe the cows. Now, I ask you, was there ever really a kid who when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, said, “I want to bathe cows”? I’m torn between feeling sorry for such a person for being stuck washing off cows or being happy for the person that they get to do what they always wanted to do.

            I’m so very thankful that there are people who feel called to be doctors and nurses. Frankly, some people are as filthy as cows and we all have that capacity when we are sick. I have been fortunate enough to not have spent much time as a patient in a hospital. I am a very private person. That’s basically my way of saying that I’m shy and I don’t want anyone to see me in all my glory. In January of 2013 I had to spend 4 days in the hospital. On the third day of my incarceration a nurse wheels in a cart to my room and announces that she is there to give me a bath. Whoa, Nellie! It’s true that I was hooked up to an IV and was a tad on the weak side due to the illness that put me in such a compromising situation. But I looked her in the eye and said, “I can take a shower myself.” Well, she looked doubtful and I told her to just come back in about 15 minutes and I would be clean. The IV was hooked onto a tall metal stand that had wheels. Me and that IV stand took a shower together. It was a little tricky only being able to use one hand, but I was more flexible than I had previously thought. While this little story is true and the humor is there for all to share, the truth is there are many people in hospitals who simply cannot take showers or bathe themselves. Thank goodness for those nurses who do the job that they do. I know that doctors see it all. Thank goodness for the ones who roll-up their sleeves and look at injuries, wounds, and all manner of human illnesses in order to help people get well. I think that perhaps the hardest thing to see my mother go through during the time leading up to her passing was her loss of dignity. She had to rely on nurses and other medical professionals to do everything for her. I believe that I got my shyness from her. I find myself thinking about the years to come for me. I remember reading about how the actor James Coburn died. He was sitting in his recliner listening to his favorite music on headphones and peacefully fell asleep. That’s how I hope I go. I might even take a sudden death in a car accident or some such calamity over having to go the way that my mother did. Of course, I won’t have a choice in the matter. What I do know is that I don’t want to be one of those TV cows and have to be bathed by someone. The time for being bathed by someone is when we are babies. I don’t want to be a baby again. They are sweet, beautiful, and wonderful additions to our lives, but by the time you get old you may be sweet, beautiful, and wonderful in spirit, but the body has taken a detour into “The Outer Limits” and as for me, I don’t want somebody washing this alien body when it’s at it’s worst.

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