Imagine, for a moment, you’re in state Rep. Rich Morthland’s place in the early morning hours of Aug. 30.
It’s about 6 a.m. You’re at a Cordova farm, tending to your cattle in the pen. When you open the gate to leave, a calf suddenly head-butts you in the knee, breaks your knee cap, and tears a tendon.
You crumple to the ground in pain.
And this isn’t just any ground. It’s covered with cattle manure.
Try as you might, you can’t stand up.
You’re alone, a mile from home.
The corral gate is still open.
What do you do?
Here’s what Morthland did.
He struggled out of the pen, closed and locked the gate, and started dragging himself toward his car.
The distance to be covered wasn’t just a few yards. Morthland estimated the car was parked 100 yards away – the length of a football field.
Slowly but surely, Morthland dragged himself on his side toward the vehicle, his knee hurting like the dickens, his clothes filled with the stench of manure.
He finally made it to the car, climbed in, drove home, and honked the horn to get the attention of his wife, Betsey.
“He was a very smelly mess,” Betsey recalled.
Morthland was taken to the hospital in Silvis, where he underwent surgery to repair his knee.
Released the next day, Morthland faces 5 more weeks of recovery before he can bend the knee, and an additional 6 weeks of physical therapy. He can hobble around now, with the use of a cane.
Morthland, a first-term Republican who represents the 71st House District, is in the midst of a re-election campaign. The man who would like to put himself in Morthland’s place – in the Illinois House of Representatives, that is – is Democrat Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale, who spoke in Sterling Thursday night to a group of supporters.
How significantly Morthland’s injury will affect his campaign has yet to play out, but he did return to work part of a day Wednesday in his Moline office. We certainly wish him well in his recovery.
The winner of the Morthland-Smiddy race will represent Sterling, Rock Falls, and most of Whiteside County as part of the newly drawn 71st District.
Politics, Illinois style, has long been compared to a stinking cesspool of corruption, where candidates undercut one another, figuratively, and try to drag their foes into the mire.
Now we know of a candidate who has had that experience, literally, and survived to tell the tale.
That head-butting cow may have made its political feelings clear, but several months from now, as a certain politician enjoys a nice sizzling steak, we think we know who will have the last laugh.