Thursday, October 13, 2016

Old-time Florida cattle ranchers remember and fear the flesh-eating screwworm

Cattle ranchers can tell you all about the screwworm. They'll recall how their fathers and grandfathers spent their days wrangling newborn calves in the woods of Pasco and Polk counties, "doctoring" their open navels with pine tar before the flesh-eating maggots killed them. Earlow Costine, 69, of Lakeland, is one of the few cattlemen still in the business who remembers dealing with the screwworm. "People today don't know how bad it was," Costine said at the Lakeland auction this week. He remembered as a 10 year-old boy going out into the woods and restraining the calves as his father scraped out the maggots and treated the wound. "The navel was the worst place, though they'd get the teeth and the eyes," he said. "If you didn't get them out of the baby it was dead."...more

As a youngster that's how I saw my first dead calf.  We always had screwworm medicine in our saddlebags. On this day we saw a cow with a full bag come into water and we followed her back to her calf. The little fellow had just died and it was a terrible sight, with worms coming out of its eyes and mouth. I don't remember how old I was, but I eventually had to leave my bunk that night and spend the rest of the night with Uncle Archie and Aunt Geraldine.


Frances Clewein said...

It was the bane of our lives in west Texas when I was growing up there in the 50's---a constant vigil every year!! The 'dope bucket' was common at all the brandings--every baby got doped at the same time he was branded! I remember the erradication effort---it was welcomed by all!!!

Will said...

I remember when in grade school, my uncle carrying a leather bag with a bottle of black dope and a spoon and when we found a cow with screw worm in an eye, we'd rope he'd jerk down rope it, we'd jump off to sit on her head, scoop the screw worms out and doctor the eye with the black dope. Kerry Boyd