THE STORY SO FAR...Mark has put the accident in Ontario behind him and delivered a load of snowmobile parts to Vancouver. Bud gives him a load of livestock from B.C. to Quebec, and a return load back to B.C., to be driven in a convoy with two...
THE STORY SO FAR… Mark has put the accident in Ontario behind him and delivered a load of snowmobile parts to Vancouver. Bud gives him a load of livestock from B.C. to Quebec, and a return load back to B.C., to be driven in a convoy with two other drivers. After arriving at Fraser Farms Mark meets his fellow drivers, Karl and Jerome, and watches his trailer being loaded with lambs. They’ll be driving 36 hours to Thunder Bay, off-loading their lambs for a 12-hour rest, then continuing on to Quebec…
• Several minutes later, they were headed east with Mark taking up the second spot in the three-truck convoy. The temperature was around zero and with any luck it would stay around that mark all the way to their destination. But, considering they’d be travelling across the prairies in the late winter/early spring the chances of the temperature dropping well below freezing were pretty good.
The driving was easy enough, but every time they stopped for a rest or a bite to eat, they had to check up on the animals to make sure they were all well.
At the second stop – well into Saskatchewan – Mark took a look in the trailer as he’d done before and the animals seemed alright. Most were moving about and looking to be at rest, but one of them appeared a bit too restful. He stared at the animal, which was lying on its side with its eyes wide open. Mark wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at. After all, how was he supposed to know if an animal was alright just by peeking into the back of the trailer. He needed someone with experience to take a look.
“Everything okay?” Karl asked, coming out of the truck stop restaurant with a meal to go.
Mark shrugged. “I don’t know. Could you take a look?”
Karl handed Mark his lunch to hang onto, then climbed up the back of the trailer so he could take a look inside. It didn’t take long for him to reach a verdict. “Yeah, that one’s looking a little sluggish.”
Mark was pleased, not for the fact that the animal wasn’t doing so well, but because he’d been able to recognize there was something wrong. “What should I do?”
Karl climbed down from the trailer and took his meal back from Mark. “Not much right now. Maybe we can close up some of the panels up front to get it a little warmer inside, see if that helps.”
“That’s all we can do?”
“We’ve got a few more hours of driving today. We’ll take a better look when we stop again. If the animal’s still listless, maybe we’ll try something else.”
Mark wasn’t reassured. The very thing he feared most about driving livestock was having one of them die while in his care.
While this animal wasn’t exactly on its death bed, it had pulled back the sheets.
“It’s not going to die on me, is it?”
A slight laugh. “I’m not saying animals have never died during transport, but it’s rare. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“Let’s just get moving.”
Mark hurried into the restaurant to order himself something to eat, then got back into Mother Load to continue his trip east.
The other two trucks were waiting for him and the moment he was in his cab, they started moving. As the hours passed, Mark was tempted to pull over and check on the animals, but that didn’t seem to be an option as they continued east without a break until they’d used up all their driving time for the day.
Mark followed the lead truck into the parking lot of a Husky just before the Manitoba border. It parked to the left of a light standard so the overhead light could shine down and illuminate the inside of the trailer. Mark followed that lead and parked on the other side of the standard while the third truck parked close to another standard farther down the lot.
Mark was eager to take a look inside his trailer, but he took the time to first make sure his truck was secure and his engine was cooling properly. Outside, Karl had already checked on his trailer and was coming over to help Mark with his.
“Do you want to look, or should I?” Mark said.
“Go ahead, it’s your load.”
Mark nodded, then slowly climbed up the back of his trailer and popped open the door that allowed him to take a look inside.
Despite the light filtering down through the translucent roof of the trailer, Mark was having a hard time seeing all of the animals. Then, some interior lights switched on (no doubt thanks to Karl) and he could see every corner of the trailer clearly…especially one animal lying on its side that wasn’t moving. Mark pulled his head out of the trailer and shook it.
“Let me have a look.”
Mark got down and watched Karl climb up for a look.
It didn’t take long for him to pull his head back and turn to Mark. “Go inside the store there and buy a bottle of Coke or ginger ale, whatever they have.”
“Just do it.”
Mark hesitated, then said, “Alright.” He headed into the truck stop but was confused by the request. We’ve got a sick animal here and this guy wants a Coke.
Nevertheless, Mark bought a one-litre bottle of Coke and brought it back trailer. “Here you go,” he said.
“You mind me asking what it’s for?”
“For the animal,” he said. “To wash down these.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bottle of aspirin.
“You’re going to give it an aspirin?”
“No, more like four of five. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get it to Thunder Bay.”
Mark was incredulous. “I never would have thought to do that.”
Karl set about opening the rear of the trailer so they could climb inside. “Maybe not on your first trip, but if you hauled livestock often enough you’d get to the point where you’d be willing to try anything. That’s when you would have tried it…and when you saw that it worked it would be the first thing you’d do from then on.”
Mark followed Karl into the trailer and the sheep moved aside for them as they headed toward the one lying on its side.
Karl crouched down and cradled the head of the lamb on his leg. “Get ready with the Coke,” he said.
Mark cracked open the bottle.
With a gentle touch, the man coaxed the lamb’s mouth open, then dropped four tiny pills onto the back of its tongue. Then he used a finger to push them past the tongue and down into its throat to the point where it had no choice but to swallow. Then he held the mouth open and said, “Pour some in there.”
Mark upended the bottle and the soda sloshed and splashed into the animal’s mouth. To his surprise the animal swallowed several times until the bottle was empty. “There,” he said.
“Now what do we do?”
“Nothing. We get some rest and be ready for another long drive in the morning.”
• Eight hours later, Mark was up and out of his cab, eager to check on the animal.
After climbing up and looking inside Mark saw that all of the animals were at rest, but he couldn’t be sure if they were asleep or all of them had fallen ill.
“He-yah,” he shouted banging several times on the side of the trailer.
The animals all got up, startled…all of them, including the one who’d been sick.
“Well?” came a voice from outside.
Mark pulled his head out of the trailer and saw Karl standing by the rear of the trailer.
“It’s a miracle!”
“Nah, just a temporary fix,” he said. “Hopefully when we get to Thunder Bay the vet there can give it a boost.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Like a Lamb to Slaughter.