Community comes to Tabor’s aid after bull’s ‘bad day’
DUBLIN, Va. — New Year’s Day 2018 got off to a routine start for a farmer here before he met a bull head on at full force. Despite the encounter he says he is a lucky man.
Tommy Tabor and his son Jake were moving a Simmental bull from one field to another boundary when things went terribly wrong. Tommy told his story sitting in the office of his fencing business 11 months later.
Jake had gone down the road to open another gate and Tommy was putting the bull in a lot, he recalled.
“All I had to do was put him in the lot and let him go down the road,” Tommy said. “I went out in the field and got him.”
“I didn’t. No stick, no nothing,” he replied when asked if he had something to drive the animal. “I went and got him and put him in the pen. I left him in the pen and went to open the gate to take him down the road. When I went to get him, he knocked me down. Then he drug me over to the fence.”
Tommy said the animal hit him two more times with its head. The animal did not have horns. The bull had him penned against the woven wire fence and then pushed him into a fence post.
“I’ve got to get away,” Tommy realized when he was against the post. He was able to move enough to avoid being penned against it. Then things began to change.
“He decided I had had enough,” Tommy continued. The bull walked away. Tommy said it never made a sound during the attack.
“I tried to climb over the woven wire fence,” he continued. “I couldn’t move. My boy came back. I was screaming for somebody to shut the gate.”
He did not want to have the bull get out of the field.
“I remember telling Jake that I needed an ambulance,” he said. “The worst thing was when they told me it would be 30 minutes before an ambulance could get to me. Somebody in the ambulance decided I needed a helicopter.”
The incident happened in a rural area of mountainous Giles County near the West Virginia border. Tommy was airlifted to a trauma center in Roanoke, Va.
He had suffered over 14 breaks in his ribs, a punctured lung and a broken knee.
“That’s all,” he said after describing the attack. “I was lucky.”
It took him two months to recuperate from his injuries and another month of physical therapy but he did not stop farming or running his business, Virginia Fences. He described the community of folks who helped him through the ordeal.
His wife Mary took a week and a half off from her banking job to be with and care for him, he said. She also hired a home health caregiver who helped him in many ways including driving him to check the cattle and his fencing jobs.
His adult sons Thomas and Jake added the feeding of the family’s cattle to their work schedules. The family owns a herd of 125 cows that graze on fields in Giles, Pulaski and Carroll counties. Tommy said a neighbor, Craig Whitaker, also fed for him. His 11-year-old son, Zack, helped around the house.
A fellow fencing contractor, Alan Meek, helped him with fencing jobs so he did not lose business. His employees also threw their support behind him wholeheartedly.
Tommy said not many home health caregivers would jump in a pickup truck and drive their patient to farm and work sites but his did.
Tommy credits working for himself and being able to get to his jobs with helping him recover as fast as he did He said his father, Tom Tabor taught him the value of having daily chores. He believes this habit helped him recover rapidly from the bull attack.
The elder Tabor, now in his 90s and recovering from a long siege of the shingles, is still living by the creed, Tommy said. He still checks his cattle daily.
Tom Tabor is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent who helped usher Southwest Virginia into a new era of farming and led Carroll County where he served and still lives onto its path of being one of the most diversified agricultural counties in the state.
“I was blessed to be fully supported by my community and other farmers and fence builders, Tommy Tabor said. “I was very blessed that I had a community to keep my farming and fencing building going.”
He expressed his deep gratitude to his family including his wife and sons, his employees, his neighbors and his caregiver.
“My lesson, was, you know we always work the cattle by hand, by gentle, but I’ve learned a lesson,” Tommy said. “I always carry a stick ‘cause you never know when they are gonna have a bad day and turn on you. I think that’s what my bull did. He had a bad day.”
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