** I like cows, but my images of them involve more than tail flickin’ and cud chewin’. It comes from a boyhood on the farm when I battled a cantankerous milk cow and had to round up escapee steers on a regular basis. My most haunting memory comes from when the herd attacked me.
Trapped in a Far Side Cartoon
An old cottonwood tree used to be just beyond the walnut grove, on the other side of the fence and in the cow pasture. The cottonwood was stunted, a Quasimodo tree, half bent over, with large, low branches that were still alive—but barely. One day, when I was ten or eleven, I’d slipped out to the pasture for some reason, and as I walked back toward the grove the small herd of cattle charged at me. I panicked, sprinted to the cottonwood, and scrambled onto a low branch. The twenty or so steers gathered under me, milling about, swatting flies with their tails, and acting as if they might be content to stand there in the shade for the rest of the day.
For a few desperate minutes, I was in a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon. The steers were discussing how to shake me out of the tree so they could pommel me senseless with their hooves. “Did you see him scurry up the tree? He about wet himself.” Some might say the animals thought I had a bucket of corn to feed them or they were just curious. But the apologists weren’t there to see the gleam in those bovine eyes. I was trapped.
The heat was intense, and they shuffled around enough to raise a small layer of dust that floated in the still air. I yelled for help, then yelled at them, but it was soon obvious that they were having about as much fun as a 900-pound steer could have on a summer afternoon. Tails flicked; flies buzzed; I thought I saw buzzards slowly circling the scene.
The tree was close to the barbed-wire fence that separated the pasture from a nearby soybean field, so I started sliding out on the horizontal branch that was my perch. Some of the cattle were lying in the dirt by now, and if I could get to the end of the branch, I’d be near the fence. I didn’t weigh much more than a wet rag back then, but sure enough, the branch bent down earlier than I’d wanted, and I flipped into the dirt. The nearby steers jumped back, and I scrambled to the nearest fence post, climbed the strands of barbed wire, and landed with a crunch in the bean field. By the time I stood and shook the dirt off me, the cattle were calm again.
I may have had a few scrapes or bruises, but I didn’t notice as I slipped into the shade of the walnut grove and walked back to the house. It was a life-or-death scene for me, and I bounced along, floating with the relief that comes from such raw adventure. By that time, the cattle were milling about in the shade and sharing a few insights. “Well, that was fun. What next? Wanna mosey over to the mineral block or lick salt for a while?”
by dan gogerty (pic from premiumtimesnq.com)