A few extraneous observations from Tuesday’s livestock semitrailer crash on U.S. 61 in Hannibal and ensuing backyard cattle roundup …
(I need to preface this by saying that for a city slicker such as myself, who moved to Quincy from suburban St. Louis by way of Columbia, Mo., the idea of cows running through town was completely stupefying. The theme music from the movie “The Magnificent Seven” kept running through my head.)
When I first got to the scene and parked my car at the Hardee’s at that intersection, a woman was standing next to her car, staring incredulously at the knot of emergency vehicles that surrounded the overturned truck. She said she wasn’t from the area, but was simply in town for car repairs. What an introduction to Hannibal, I thought.
A bevy of emergency responders were on the scene Tuesday morning: the Hannibal Police Department, Hannibal Fire Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Hannibal Street Department (to secure the street), Hannibal Animal Control and a local veterinarian. As I walked up James Road to talk with Street Department employees who were directing traffic at the intersection with St. Mary’s Avenue, two men who were walking behind me grumbled, “The (expletive deleted) SWAT team came out for the cows.”
Adding to the long list of cow-related puns I heard in the newsroom during and after our coverage of the crash, I heard quite a few steak jokes as I made my way around Hannibal yesterday. Based on the cows’ appearance, a member of our newsroom staff who’s a family farmer guessed that the cows were probably black Angus cattle, prized for their meat. All of the cattle were ultimately accounted for, but if any had gone missing, at least there would have been a possible explanation.
I’m told this isn’t the first time a livestock truck has run into some trouble at the U.S. 61/James Road intersection. Apparently, a truck carrying hogs overturned there some years ago — with many more animal casualties.
Traffic was snarled in the area around the accident. I spent at least 15 minutes sitting in traffic on St. Mary’s Avenue. Despite my mission to report the news, I’d been chortling all morning about the many cow puns and steak jokes there for the taking, plus the mental picture of our ace photographer Phil Carlson chasing a horseman on foot as he chased a cow (that would be how we got these excellent pictures), plus the sheer craziness of the day. If my mother had been there, she probably would have said, “That’s your angel punishing you.”
To be sure, yesterday’s crash is kind of not funny. Four cattle died — that’s four animals, and judging from the size of the cows, it probably also is close to $10,000. It’s a miracle more didn’t. It’s a miracle the cattle that escaped, which were roughly the size of minivans and were pretty agitated, didn’t injure any humans. It’s a miracle that the driver wasn’t injured, that the truck didn’t take out any other vehicles and that it didn’t go crashing through the front wall of Cassano’s, a popular restaurant at that intersection. We make fun, but we must also take a deep breath and remember that it was serious, that it could have been much more serious.
Still, on a certain level, it’s pretty darned funny — mostly because, as my esteemed colleague Rodney Hart would say, you can’t make it up.