Surgery and Cattle Insemination

Early in 2016, I fell and tore a ligament in my left wrist. It was my own klutzy fault; the ground was dry, it was well-lit, I’m just uncoordinated. Eventually, it was clear I would need surgery, with a 6 week long, arm-in-cast recovery. And because SURGERY, no getting the cast wet. The surgeon recommended “cattle insemination” gloves for showering.

The words “cattle insemination gloves” sent me instantly back in time.

The summer that I was 16, I went with my parents to meet our relatives who didn’t emigrate from Germany, as both my grandmother and grandfather had done. I spoke almost no German — some nursery rhymes, letters, numbers. But my family had hosted an exchange student the year before, and Isabel, though English, had a German mother and was fluent auf Deutsch. She joined us on our trip.

While visiting my Oma’s relatives in Kleinniedesheim (you know, “little niedesheim,” as distinct from Großniedesheim, “big niedesheim,” down the road), I depended completely on Isabel for translation.

Our first evening there, my cousins explained the hard work they had been doing that day. They owned a bull, and their bull was valued as a stud. But rather than allowing risky nature to set its course, they had to harvest the bull semen for artificial insemination of cows.

Isabel was a person who loved to ask questions. There was no subject too awkward, too explicit, too strange, or too … anything … for her.

Here’s how it sounded to me:

Two farming relatives, a man in his teens or 20s and an older man, speaking only German, looking surprised and slightly uncomfortable as they answered questions.

A 16 year old English girl, asking questions in rapid-fire German, shrieking at the answers, looking at me and shrieking, “Can you believe that???” in English.

Back and forth, giggling, shrieking, and blushing the entire time. At least 15 minutes. Maybe longer. At the time it felt like time stopped and I was trapped in hell for eternity, but that turned out to be wrong.

If my translator is to be trusted, the process involved a bucket, a wooden cow, a bicycle with a cooler strapped to it, and some large syringes.

Unfortunately, showering while wearing one was much less entertaining.