BRANDING IRON

Blaine Northrop, Chief Brand Inspector

 

 
I was invited to the Reserve Veterinary Corps meeting hosted by the North Dakota State Veterinarian’s Office the other day. Dr. Sarah Bailey was updating attendees on the avian bird flu outbreak in California. While she was giving the update, it reminded me of something that happened in Nevada a few years ago.
 
Nevada was having problems with roping cattle being transported into Las Vegas from California without brand and health certificates. We had been monitoring this and were trying to locate all the cattle in Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. We had things pretty well figured out when the Nevada state veterinarian called me and told me to drive to Las Vegas, find the cattle and give the owners two choices: 1) load the cattle up and get them out of the state; or 2) the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDOA) would seize the cattle and send them to the nearest slaughter plant.
 
Since school was out, I went home and told my school-teacher fiancé Linda to pack her clothes, because we were heading for Vegas. She could get a some R&R while I gathered cattle.
 
We drove the six hours to Vegas, then I dropped Linda at the hotel and started making my rounds. By the morning of the third day, I had the cattle loaded and headed to California. I escorted them across the state line and headed back to the hotel to get Linda.
 
I had no more than stepped into the hotel when my cell phone rang. It was the NDOA Administrator of Agriculture and the state veterinarian.
 
The conversation went like this: “Blaine, here’s the deal: I was called by the state veterinarian in the eastern part of the United States and they have discovered poultry that had been in contact with the avian bird flu,” the Nevada state veterinarian said. “There were four peacocks’ eggs mailed out of that hatchery a few weeks ago and were sent to a residence in Vegas someplace.
You have to find them!”
 
I just stood there, with the phone to my ear, not believing what I just heard. At the same time, my mind was spinning doing the math. Okay, there are at least 2 million people in and around Las Vegas and I have to find four peacock eggs. I might as well buy a house; I could be here a while.
 
Then, the state veterinarian said, “We have a partial address from the hatchery. They think the avenue and street is right, but, not the house number, so you’ll have to figure it out.”
 
So, we threw our luggage into the truck and Linda, the newly appointed navigator, and I headed out. We wound up in West Las Vegas looking for the house. After circling around the area, we started to see homes with the correct partial address.
 
Then, Linda said, “If you put these numbers in this order, this could be the house.” I backed up, pulled into the driveway and walked onto the porch. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a box sitting on the porch with the name and address of the East Coast hatchery! I knocked on the door and a lady and her husband answered. I told them who I was and why I was there.I explained I was taking their peacock eggs away and why. The lady teared up, because she had bought the se eggs as a birthday present for her father. I felt bad, but had to take the eggs because of the disease risk. I put them on ice and headed for Elko.
 
I called the Nevada state veterinarian and said I had the eggs. He told me to take them to Elko and put them in the incinerator. I said, “Really? We could incinerate a bull in there,” thinking about the hassle of incinerating four little eggs. “How about I incinerate the four eggs along with a few slabs of bacon in a frying pan? It’ll be a lot cheaper, and I’ve never tasted peacock eggs,” I teased. I won’t repeat what he said, but I have never heard him use that kind of language before.
 
When I got back to Elko, I put the four eggs in the incinerator and hit the button. I guess some people just don’t have much of a sense of humor.
 
Till next time, keep warm.
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