If you do not look, you will not see by Dr Gin Watson
“Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.” T.H. Huxley
One of my favourite items at the practice is the microscope. It not only reveals things far too small to otherwise behold but it also opens up chapters and verses that would otherwise never be read or reveled in. (It must be stated that you do not always fully understand everything you read all the time.) Besides this, it often gives you a little gap to gather one’s thoughts, think through options, plan the next step and often glimpse the bigger picture. It generally opens up a wonderland echoed in a starry sky or a wind swept grassland. In addition if you do not take the time to look so much passes by as a shadowy memory on a dusty road or is swallowed in a conundrum of uncertainty.
One of my favourite memories about my very first job as a vet involved a farm in the Eastern Free State close to the Lesotho border. Nestled on the sandstone hills in that area, it commanded a fine view and a most deserving family. Every few months we would venture onto Oom Piet’s farm to monitor his dairy herd’s milk production and do pregnancy checks on his cows. The visits would start with milk sample collecting and a discussion about his milk production and any mastitis problems that might exist. We would then proceed onto his crush and cows patiently awaiting their pregnancy examinations. The crush and kraal stood high on a hill where the view was astounding and the sunshine on one’s shoulders golden and seeped in goodness. Oom Piet and his mentally impaired son would expertly steer the cows into the crush and Piet Junior would hold the tail of the cow being examined up and out of the way. Pregnancy or the lack there of, is diagnosed by rectal examination.
Every time a cow was diagnosed pregnant, Oom Piet’s face would erupt in the broadest of smiles as he proudly noted it in his file. Piet Junior had done an artificial insemination course and it was his job to inseminate the cows when they were ready. His expertise improved substantially over the months we were involved on the farm and his father’s pride in his son was remarkable as the percentage pregnancy rates increased. The cows still sported names like Blomkop, Botterblom, Bessie and Witvoet. Every animal was an individual and an important member of the farming enterprise. Each pregnant cow promised a calf and a lactation period ensuring six months at least of much needed income from the milk.
Once we had finished with the cows we were heralded down to the farm house and shown the bathroom with the instruction to wash our hands well before lunch. The first time I washed my hands in the basin Oom Piet most politely instructed me to please put the plug in the basin and to save water – each drop on the farm was precious. Economy and good management extended to this level.
We were then seated at the dining table where Oom Piet’s wife had laden the lazy Susan with the best farm fare for a wonderful lunch. These were joyous occasions filled with love and laughter.
These visits always filled one with such a feeling of humility and contentment for folk who took life by the horns, worked extremely hard and reveled in the pleasure of improvement and a job well done despite the odds.
The milk samples collected on the farm were taken back to the lab, processed and put under a microscope. Under our guidance his mastitis problems decreased, his milk production increased and I was allowed the time to reflect on the sincerity and richness of our farming community at its best.
What a pleasure!