COMANCHE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Comanche Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) had an unusual call out last Friday. These firefighters went on a call to rescue a prized breeding calf trapped at the bottom of a well, aged 100+ years.

Friday, February 17 began as most Fridays do for Martijn Verschueren. He spent his day at work for Volleman’s Milk in Gustine, and was headed out to dinner with a friend. That was until he got a message from the Comanche Volunteer Fire Chief.

“It was quite an adventure that I will never forget,” Verschueren said. “At the moment, it feels kind of unrealistic, like a dream.” 

Verschueren was born in the Netherlands, but grew up in neighboring Belgium. He told KTAB/KRBC he spent his childhood days running around his grandfather’s farmland. It instilled a love of agriculture, specifically working with cattle, in him at an early age.

However, as many little boys do, they dream of serving as a firefighter, as well.

Fast forward to just a year-and-a-half ago, he’s living out both of those dreams in Texas, another dream come true because of the opportunity to do both.

He fell in love with Texas when he was 15 years old, interning with the Vollemans on their dairy farm. Now at 23, he’s working as a business development manager for them.

All of those passions and experiences paid off last Friday, when that lone message had him going to Crosswind Ranch on a rescue mission.

Arriving to the scene and speaking with ranch owner, Jason Davis, one of their prized breeding calves had fallen down a 40-foot deep well, only discovering the animal after hearing an echoey, anxious bellow coming from what seemed like a bottomless pit.

After some deliberation and what Davis called “redneck ingenuity,” they came up with a pully system using Davis’ skid-steer’s adjustable arm that would allow them to lower a firefighter down into the well and hopefully, retrieve the calf in the process.

“He was our 2022 rookie of the year,” Comanche VFD Chief Jeffrey Jacinto said. “Martijn is always willing to respond. Maybe that’s another reason he got volun-told to go down the well.” 

Martijn Verschueren, Comanche VFD’s 2022 Rookie of the Year

Verschueren was their guy. Standing at nearly 6-foot-3-inches with a lanky build, he was the perfect size to lower down. However, another challenge would soon present itself. No one knew if the calf was injured or not.

40 feet down and only five feet wide at the bottom, creating a bowl shape, Verschueren had little to no wiggle room with the 400-pound calf anxiously awaiting help.

“From there, it was all improvising,” Verschueren said. “We used a big utility bag as a harness for him to lift him up. It could hold nearly 2,000 pounds so we knew it would work.” 

Lowering the utility bag down, Verschueren used his dairy farm experience to calm the young bull by sticking his fingers in the calf’s mouth and triggering suckling. That allowed him enough time to carefully harness the calf, doublecheck the straps, and communicate the calf was ready to be raised via walkie-talkie.

“As soon as he hit the ground, he wanted to run off but swung back to me,” Davis said. “It took us a little while to get him unhooked, but then he walked off, momma called him by the fence, he got to nursing and that was that.” 

Martijn was waiting for the next pully ride up after the calf was rescued, giving him just a few moments to reflect on the obscure callout he just participated in. However, his improvised heroics were not at the forefront of his mind.

“I am scared to death of snakes. I hate snakes,” Verschueren said laughing. “There was a moment that I thought, ‘oh, let’s look around for a second for snakes.'”

Just a few days later, the calf remains mostly unharmed aside from one cut around his right eye. Davis also said the ranch has named the young bull “McClure,” after Midland-native Jessica McClure who fell in her aunt’s backyard well in 1987.

Chief Jacinto said the Comanche VFD is also changing the old adage about firefighters:

“Fire departments rescue cats out of trees. I guess we don’t do that; we pull cows out of wells,” Chief Jacinto laughed.

In Chief Jacinto’s 30 years as a firefighter, he told KTAB/KRBC this was only the second calf-in-well rescue he’s seen, both happening within the last six years.