Becoming a social media sensation was not what Walter Mehr had in mind when he attempted to rescue a 5-day-old calf trapped on a frozen pond last week on his Calloway County farm.
All he wanted to do was save an animal.
“Sure, there is the money aspect of it, but it’s a baby animal. It needs help. It’s just the natural thing of wanting to get it out of the situation,” Mehr said Tuesday, more than a week after his act was captured on video by his wife, Patty. As of Tuesday, the video, which was uploaded to Facebook, had received 8,700-plus views.
“It’s one of those things where you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to do something,’” he said.
The job of rescuing the calf was anything but easy. For starters, his best means of attacking the situation, a rope lasso, was so frozen by the bitter cold air the area was receiving (15 degrees was believed to be the high temperature the day of the rescue), that it would not bend, staying rigid and barely usable.
Next was the pond itself. He said he had no way to know how thick the ice was and if it could support his weight. Then, there was the unknown.
“What if she decided to start kicking and got scared and made it worse? All of these things you had to consider,” he said. “Plus, its momma was nearby, and she could easily have become upset and tried to come over. There was no way to predict what would happen.
“What it came down to was a line in the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou.’ ‘We’re in a tight spot.’”
So Mehr grabbed a pair of long pieces of wood that would act as skis on the ice; he was a competitive water skier for many years, so he knew how to use long objects like that with his feet.
Then, he somehow was able to manipulate the lasso in a way that it would fit around the young animal’s neck and around its chest, securing it. The calf, perhaps from fear, stayed on her stomach with her hooves folded beneath her. That probably served as an advantage as Mehr, maneuvering the wooden planks, was able to drag the animal along the ice, eventually reaching the bank.
Seconds later, Mehr was able to free the calf from the lasso, allowing it to run to its mother.
“I’d say the entire process, including preparing the wood and the lasso, took about 30 minutes. As for just the part of rescuing the calf, I think the video is a total of 3 minutes and 38 seconds,” he said.
“Another part he had to consider was how thick the ice was,” Patty said. “The last thing he would’ve wanted was for both of them to have fallen through the ice and into the water.”
Mehr said he has farmed cattle for several years and has come to understand a few things about these animals, particularly the youngest ones.
“Five-day-old calves are very curious, and what I think may have happened is that this was the first time she had seen that pond, so she went out on it and slipped on her stomach. Then she kept trying to get up and her legs would slip and she kept going farther and farther out into the pond,” he said.
Mehr said the trouble began after water troughs, thought to be freeze-resistant, did freeze, leaving only ice for the calves to attempt to drink. He said in the 10 years he has had that system, this marked the first time it had frozen.
What he thinks happened after that is the cattle began migrating toward the nearest area of water – in this case, the pond. However, fencing around the pond prevents larger animals from getting near the pond; the same is not true of the smallest ones, particularly with their curious nature.
“I didn’t even know she was over there,” he said, adding that he and Patty were in the process of sending daughter Alex back to Birmingham, Alabama for the resumption of classes at Samford University. “That’s a four-hour drive, so we wanted to get her out of here before we could get back to to trying to get the calf off the pond. Now, that all of this has happened, Alex has named her Angus.”
“He posted the video shortly after, and it was (Alex) that was the one who said it needed to be shared,” Patty said. “After he did that, we had about 50 times the number of the people who had seen it before. I can’t believe how this has gotten all of this response.”
To view the rescue video, go to https://www.facebook.com/100012695941808/videos/409426582823870/?id=100012695941808.