A Cattle Guy and a Pig Valve

Jim Bradford, the boss here at Brad Z Ranch, is waiting for open heart surgery as we write this. He suggests that we just explain that he is on “vacation” as he has had more time to read books and lie in bed the past week than at any time any of us can remember.

After feeling less than 100 percent for a few weeks, he went for some tests and doctors found a problem with one of his heart valves. This didn’t surprise him entirely as it was a heart murmur that had kept him out of flight school as a young man in the Army. But it did surprise us that he paid attention to his body’s warning signals. If you know him, you will be surprised that he actually went to see a doctor. (His equally stubborn peers should pay attention here and don’t delay a doctor visit when you notice something being off.) The good news is that today’s surgery is intended to prevent more serious problems and was not preceded by a heart attack, but prayers are welcome.

Through the past week, Dad’s sense of humor has remained intact as the below story will show. First, though, I need to explain a bit about farm culture for those reading this who may not get it. Farmers and ranchers have a long tradition of good-natured ribbing when it comes to the products they raise or the products they buy. This can take the form of arguments over John Deere versus Case tractors. Or Chevy versus Ford pickups. And, of course, it happens in the livestock world. I remember as a child the constant teasing that passed between Dad, the cattle rancher, and our neighbors, who raised hogs. Dad would give gifts of steaks or roasts to the neighbor, and he would, in turn, gift back ham or bacon. And, in our family, you didn’t dare serve anything but beef for important family gatherings.

This week, Dad was told he would have open heart surgery to replace the failing valve and would get a new “tissue” valve. You can imagine his reaction when – upon asking a few more question – he found out that this meant they were going to place a pig valve in his heart. I’m sure when he begins waking up from surgery later today, he will repeat the joke to the nurse that went something like this: “Isn’t there a risk of a valve being rejected?” Nurse: “The risks are low, but, yes, it’s possible.” Dad: “Well, I’m a cattle guy so I suspect putting something from a pig inside me is only going to ensure that it is rejected.”

Now if only there was a hog farmer here to give him some lip back. Might be the perfect medicine.

P.S. From a day later: Dad came through the surgery very well. He’s in recovery mode today. We couldn’t help but laugh when the surgery team, who knew about Dad’s joke about the pig valve, made a point of giving him a valve from a cow in the end. Really.

Colleen Bradford Krantz

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