I wrote a book titled Blazin’ Bloats and Cows on Fire! It referred to the flammability of rumen gasses and the spectacular, but rarely harmful, occasions when they are ignited. I assumed that the predilection for ignition was confined to ruminants but, as is often the case, I was thinking too small. Dr. Charlie broadened my horizons.

He and his esteemed equine veterinary colleague Marvelous Marv were on a house call to examine a 4-year-old colt with colic. Although the horse was a fine-looking Chestnut, the facilities were not up to par.

It was raining a steady drizzle, and the horse pen was abloom in late spring Colorado mud. Marvelous Marv was not necessarily fastidious, but he made a point to dress professionally. A Windsor-knotted tie, Pendleton wool sport coat and checkered English hunting cap set him apart from Dr. Charlie who wore more practical coverall garb. When they arrived together, most assumed Marvelous Marv was the man-in-charge and Dr. Charlie was his valet.

They soon determined from the history of the patient being fed a garbage can full of lawn clippings and its swollen tight high right flank that a gaseous cecum was the problem. The lady owner fretted. She led the horse from the muddy pen into a small very old wooden storage shed. The doctors proceeded with their examination and concluded that the cecum would have to be punctured to relieve the pressure.

The concerned owner held the halter while Dr. Charlie prepped the right paralumbar fossa. He was doing it mostly by feel since the light was very poor.


“Hold him tight,” he instructed the owner.

He poised the 3-inch, 12-gauge needle just as Marvelous Marv flamed his cigarette lighter. Whether it was to lend assistance or to light his pipe is irrelevant – it coincided with the puncture and release of the cecal gas causing a fireball that whooshed and brilliantly lit the shed long enough for the owner to scream and the horse to bolt through the door! From his position cringing in the corner with no eyebrows, Dr. Charlie could see his colleague trying to beat out the wall of burning cobwebs, which reached to the rafters, with his natty checkered cap.

Marvelous explained later to the trampled owner that they should have warned her. The procedure is routine to ensure that no flammable gas is left in enclosed areas.

“Thank you, so much,” she said. PD