A Procedure That Was Just Nuts

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - December 22, 2010
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Growing up in Hawaii, I never really experienced the cold weather that winter brings. Luckily, college life spent on the Mainland afforded me the “pleasure” of freezing my long johns off, if you know what I mean. Decembers in Massachusetts, Colorado and Minnesota taught me how to keep warm just to survive.

You would think I learned my lesson and had enough of the cold, but one winter I decided to volunteer on a farm in the frigid tundra of North Dakota.

Driving from Minnesota to North Dakota, I couldn’t help but notice snow. It covered every inch of ground from point A to point B. As the hours passed, I wondered what possessed me to forego trips to a warmer climate just to experience bull castrations on a farm. I think cabin fever must have got to me.

Once at the homestead, along with other volunteers I was greeted by the farmer and his family. Although the land seemed desolate and the climate glacial, the warm reception by the Kaibel family melted the chill from my bones. Mrs. Kaibel ushered us in from the cold where a toasty meal awaited us. After filling our bellies, we were shown to our rooms and told that work would start at the break of dawn.

The next morning we awoke to a clear, sunny day. Peering out of the window, I saw a winter wonderland and started to get excited about being a farmhand. After a hearty breakfast, we moseyed out to the barn in our coveralls. The bright sunshine lulled us into thinking that warmth awaited us outside. Instead we were welcomed with blustery winds and snow whipping at our faces.

Once in the barn, the farmer and his son corralled the bulls one by one into a squeeze chute. This reinforced metal contraption held our patients in place while we performed the castration. None of us veterinary students grew up on a farm, so we did not know what was to happen next. Taking hold of the bull’s scrotum, we were told to slice the sac with what appeared to be an extra-large steak knife. Each testicle dropped and recoiled slightly as if on a bungee cord. We were then given a device called an emasculator. The name itself made me cringe. I definitely did not want to be on the receiving end of the emasculator. This instrument cut as well as held off the blood supply of the testicle, so that bleeding was minimal. As each testicle plopped into a bucket, I admired the pain threshold of these bulls. We squirted antiseptic into the now-empty scrotal sac and set the steer free to roam in the snow-filled pen. This procedure was repeated throughout the day, and by mid-afternoon we had finished the job.

Returning to the house, I envisioned a nice, warm bath and storytelling by the fireplace. Instead we spent another hour prepping the testicles that sat in the buckets. We peeled and rinsed each testicle, then placed them into Ziploc bags and stored them in the freezer. It was actually quite fun and, like the veterinary geeks that we were, we identified anatomical structures as we “shucked” away.

Later that spring, we took those frozen orbs and ate them. Some testicles were grilled while others were deep-fried in a tempura batter. On the Mainland, this delicacy is called Rocky Mountain Oysters. I’d like to say I enjoyed the taste, but I didn’t. I mean, it was OK, but not something I’d eat on a regular basis.

Call me crazy, but the taste was just nuts.

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