The pain in the neck

2014-07-18 00:00

THERE are four of us, all classmates. Born in the fifties. It is tea time at a congress of farm vets at Skukuza in the Kruger Park and we are standing around a table sucking on our cups.

I haven’t seen Niel for many years and I am positioned next to him. My stiff neck is rotated at about 45 degrees to the north. His is to the south. We look like a pair of book ends. Good thing we are aligned as we are. We would have trouble having a conversation if we were stationed the other way around.

“What happened to you?” I ask.

“Too much sex,” he explains.

We all nod in understanding.

His practice is based on the transfer of embryos, a technique which involves the prompting of extra-super-special cows to produce lots of eggs by treating them with a cocktail of hormones and then harvesting the fertilised embryos for insertion into just plain, run-of-the-mill bovines at a later date. A physical game, involving much manipulation with one’s arm deeply embedded in a cow’s rectum, which, after 30-odd years, is bound to exert a toll.

“I have just learnt to live with the pain,” he informs us all.

“It becomes easier to tolerate as the years go by.”

Sue-Ellen, across the table, pipes up, gesticulating to a barely discernible scar down the side of her neck. “It happened a while ago. We were catching Blesbuck in a boma. The trick was to herd the animals into the trap and then quickly pull a hessian curtain along a chain to cut off their escape route. At one point, the cable snapped, however, and I was in the firing line. It wrapped around my neck like a python around its prey and dropped me to the ground. I felt like I had taken a cheap shot from Mike Tyson. Surgery was required to repair the damage,” she concludes.

I feel that I must give my version of events. I generally don’t like talking about the negatives of ageing. Too many people don’t have the privilege of getting older. But the topic had been broached and I don’t like being left out.

“I have a spine that looks as though T. Rex has nibbled at it,” I start.

“I have recurrent lower-back issues as a result of picking up too many anaesthetised boerbuls.

“The transverse process of one of my chest vertebrae has also been chipped by a ram who objected to being confined and head-butted me. Let me tell you, I have renewed sympathy for the recipients of one of Bakkies Botha’s tackles!

“But my current issue is my neck,” I say, pointing at the offending organ. “It is like this mainly as a result of three decades of mad Brahman cows using my left arm as a fulcrum. Something had to give. I am determined to avoid surgery. So I have seen a number of doctors, a chiropractor, a physiotherapist and a biokineticist, and have listened to a multitude of lay-people experts. I am currently on medication and have to do exercises regularly. At the traffic lights on the way to work, children stare at my skew neck as if I am a prop in a Mad Max movie!

“My wife says my pain in the neck is merely an extension of my personality,” I conclude, trying to add some humour to the discussion. I finish my dissertation in a self-satisfied manner, content that I have outdone the other two.

“So, George,” I inquire of the last of our quartet. He looks half our age. “What is wrong with you?”

“Nothing at all. I am as fit as ever before.”

“So what is the secret?” we inquire in unison.

“I married into money.”

We all nod our heads in understanding.

• You can follow the exploits of the Village Vet on his blog www.village

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