Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What happens when cows decide to wander.

When I was a child we had sheep and horses and sometimes goats and cows. The sheep and the horses generally stayed put. They tended not to wander beyond their pastures. They seemed to be content in their fields as long as there was grass, grain, hay and treats. And attention.
The cows and goats wandered. Goats climbed the fences. They burrowed under the fence. Goats were able to teleport to the other side of the pasture fence. They usually wanted only to be in the garden to eat the rhubarb stalks or else to steal clothes from off the line. Goats it seems like to be fashionable and often wear dresses in the wild.
The cows on the other hand wanted no part of the farm. They would select one cow to lay down on the fence, making it level to the ground so that all the other cows could walk out of the field, march down the road and head for parts unknown. Maybe they were going to Canada.
My grandmother had cows, too. They also didn't fix on staying in the field. One night when I was four they all got out and started walking down Quakerneck Road on the other side of Alloway. It was very dark that night and the cows were black. Their journey down the road ended when a truck hit one of their comrades. Cows are loyal creatures. When the cow was struck and downed by the car, the other cows stopped and waited with their fallen friend.
The accident was a mess. The owner of the truck was yelling at my grandmother. My grandmother was sorry for her cow. Finally the police were called in.
I was staying with my grandmother that evening waiting for my father to pick me up after his classes were over for the day. My mother was at work in the ER.
When my father arrived the scene to my four year old eyes was bedlam. It had been decided that the cow was too injured to save. Her legs were crushed and she was in serious pain. They were discussing putting her down as my father arrived on the scene.
The officer drew his hand gun and shot the cow in the eye. She bellowed and didn't die. The officer said he thought that would be the quickest way into the brain. It seemed to me that he was just afraid to get too close to the cow.
My father sucked in his breath as he bit his tongue. My father was a first or second year veterinary student, had shaggy hair and the biggest heart when it came to animal suffering. (He still is a very compassionate man although he covers it sometimes with a crispy coating) He asked the police officer for his gun stating that if the cow keeps on getting shot in the eye the cow will only suffer longer. The police officer handed his gun to my father. My father walked up to the cow, said sorry, and shot her in the head point blank. The bellowing stopped. The pain stopped. The cow slumped.
My father handed the gun back to the officer, hugged his mother and took me home.
We didn't have cows for a very long time after that.

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