Farm Collector

Like a Heimlich Maneuver

Memories of hedge apples and hands-on livestock care.

The first article I read in the April 2022 issue of Farm Collector was “Harvesting Fence Posts” by Don McKinley. When I saw the picture of hedge apples, I had to laugh. It brought back an old memory. There were definitely a lot of people who thought hedge apples would ward off moths and other insects. My wife always wanted me to bring her several nice specimens each fall and she would place them in our closets for the winter.

Not the pickiest of eaters

Wildlife, especially squirrels, use hedge apples as a food source, but only late in the year, after the better stuff is about gone. However, cows don’t care when it is: If hedge apples are available, they’re going to eat them. A cow will pick up an entire hedge apple in her mouth, then raise her head and point her nose up so the hedge apple stays in place while she positions it so that she can crush it with her jaw teeth. When she gets a chunk gnawed off, she will chew contentedly while the rest of it falls to the ground to be picked up and dealt with later.

One year in the late 1940s, when I was a little kid, Pappy had sorted off some big calves and a couple old cows to sell. They were being held in the barn lot overnight to be hauled to the sale barn the next day. There were a couple hedge trees in one corner of the lot. Shortly after dark, we heard what could only be described as a loud moaning noise coming from the barn lot. I tagged along as Pappy went to check out the noise. An old cow was standing under the hedge trees with her head hanging down, her eyes bugged out and slobber running from her mouth.

After he decided she was choking, Pappy went to the house and called the vet. When he arrived, we put the old cow in our version of a squeeze chute (snubbed up to a big post with someone holding her tail), then he started checking her out.

A helping hand

After standing with his arm in her mouth up to the elbow for what seemed like forever, he finally pulled his arm out and wiped off most of the slobbers. He was wearing heavy, steel-toe boots, and after wiping off his arm, he grunted and then proceeded to kick that poor old cow in the stomach as hard as he could kick. She jumped, coughed, let out a long whooshing noise, and then an entire large hedge apple fell out of her mouth.

“I couldn’t get hold of it to pull it out and the more I messed with it, the tighter it got,” he said. “I figured she’d have to get rid of it herself or stand there and choke to death, so I just helped her out a little bit.”

Those hedge trees got a lot bigger over the years. Posts were cut out of them more than once, and cows were still eating those hedge apples right up to the day the farm was sold for development in 2014.

 Alan Easley, Columbia, Missouri


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  • Updated on May 23, 2022
  • Originally Published on May 18, 2022
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