Just about 50 miles south of Montgomery, the July sun is setting on a sweltry summer day. Mr. Steve Rogers keeps about 200 head of Charolais cattle on his 500-acre farm near Greenville, Alabama. Charolais are among the heaviest of cattle breeds: bulls weigh from 2,000 to 3,000 lbs., and cows from 1,200 to 1,500 lbs. Their coat color ranges from white to cream-colored, while their noses are uniformly pink.
For the most part, Steve is a one-man operation. His son lends a hand when he is not working his full-time job for CSK Railroad. On this long, hot day, it is just about dusk when Steve tells his wife he will be right back to join her for supper. As he has done countless times before, the 68-year-old man walks over to his Kawasaki Mule, sits down in the driver’s seat, and fires it up. Right on cue, both Cain and Able hop up into the Mule with him. Cain is an older dog, a mixed breed with some Australian shepherd in there. And Able is a young, purebred Black and Tan English Shepherd. The elder Cain is a laid-back good old boy who has learned over the years how to stay out of trouble. But just a few minutes earlier, young Able was getting scolded for tearing up Mrs. Rogers flower garden. The junior Able is also a primary suspect in the ongoing investigation of multiple torn-up lawn chair seat cushions.
On his way out to the pasture, Steve is dismayed to notice some buzzards flying overhead. As he gets closer, he sees that one of his Charolais cows has had a calf. But right away, he can also see the mother cow is vexed. Clearly, those buzzards have been harassing her and her newborn calf all afternoon. Cautiously, Steve eases his utility vehicle slowly into the pasture. It doesn’t take forty plus years of farming experience to know that an agitated, 1,300-pound cow with a newborn calf requires a bit of prudence. The sky is getting dark, but he will have to ear-tag this calf before heading back for supper. The cows’ pasture is surrounded by two strands of electrified, barbed-wire fence. Moving his vehicle calmly, Steve nudges the calf towards the fence, gently pushing it up to and then under the hot wire.
Now with a little more room to work on the other side of the fence, Steve goes about tagging the calf. But before he knows what has happened, the upset mother cow breaks through the two strands of electrified barbed wire and sets upon him. On this hot summer day, she has had just about enough. After going through labor, she was harassed by opportunistic vultures. And now this guy is messing with her calf. She bears down on the farmer with a storm of anger, momentum, and all of her 1,300 lbs. The furious cow keeps Steve pinned to the ground, driving and dragging him full circle around his own parked vehicle. She pushes him into the sharp barbed wire. The pointed fence barbs pierce his skin and tear his flesh. Steve is bleeding plenty now. His wristwatch has been torn off, replaced with the blood of an open wound.
Steve can feel warm trickles of blood running down his neck. And he is just stocking-footed now, having been literally knocked out of his own shoes. His mind is coming in and out. The world around him is alternatingly blurry, then dark. In between the flailing hooves, the sharpened barbs, and several blunt impacts to his body, Steve’s instincts know that to survive this he needs to get away. He needs to get untangled, to escape and call for help.
And then the farmer hears a noise. Yes, there it was again. The unmistakable sound of a barking dog. From the corner of his eye, now Steve can see his young companion. Not full-grown yet, not even one year old. That juvenile Black and Tan English Shepherd he aptly named Able is there now, bravely making a stand. Able has positioned himself between the injured man and the maddened, raging cow. The young dog who was only a puppy just a few minutes ago is looking awfully grown up. Right here and right now, Able is earning his rightful place in this family. He is earning the only title he will ever need – Alabama Farm Dog. Able is dodging in and out of the cow’s threatening range. All the while baying warnings and threats. Picking his spots, the shepherd dog occupies and distracts the larger animal. Able is young, he is fit. He has resolve and focus. He was bred for this purpose; his ancestors were carefully selected for it. His breeding shines to the surface now, as he whittles the beast down. He is wearing her out. In between his strikes and parries, the Black and Tan English Shepherds looks at his owner and meets his eye.
“Run, man. Go now!”
Before he knows it, Steve has managed to regain his feet. He’s heading off towards a nearby hill. The pasture ground feels strange and unfamiliar to his stockinged feet. But he barely notices. Behind him, he can still hear the loyal sound of the young Black and Tan English Shepherd barking to hold off the other animal.
The relieved farmer finds his cell phone in his pants’ pocket. Fortunately, his son is here working on the farm today. As quickly as the whole thing started, Steve is riding back to the house. Looks like he’s going to miss supper while he takes a trip to the emergency room. In the end, Steve will have to get about forty stitches. To commemorate this hot summer day, he will have a few scars on his neck and one more on his arm. But more importantly, Steve Rogers has a new farm dog. A loyal, capable Black and Tan English Shepherd named Able.
Able was bred by John Sherling of Sherling Farms