Saturday, July 9, 2011

Did you know cows like singing?

Growing up on the farm was a lonely time for me. Being miles away from any girls or friends, I had to be inventive to find ways to keep myself occupied. A favorite pastime of mine was to find where the cows were hanging out and climb up and sit on a fence rail and start singing. First one cow would look up from her grass eating and regard me with her awesomely beautiful huge eyes as if to say “where have you been? I’ve been waiting.” More cows would start watching and listening and before you knew it, the whole dang crowd of them would be listening with rapt adoration to the sound of my lovely alto
contralto. Ok, that last bit might have been a stretch. I don’t know if I have a contralto. Or even, what a contralto is. It just sounded fancy.

Anyway, the cows seemed to like my singing. They’d come up close and stay there for as long as I would sing. They were a lovely audience, and didn’t seem to mind if I sang the same song twice. I’d try to change it up a little just to throw them off, but they never complained or seemed to notice. I did that a lot; singing to the cows.

When it was doctoring time for the cows, Dad and the boys would get them rounded up in the pen so they could administer medicine and tag ears and stuff like that. The mama cows would be mooing like crazy for the babies - the equivalent of moms yelling at their kids to hurry up and get the heck in the van, and I was sure that somehow, they were in pain otherwise, why would they be yelling so much? Once the cow was in a chute to keep her from running off to get away from the madness, the men would check her over to make sure she didn’t have any hangnails or pimples, and they’d give her preventative medicine. Sounds nice, right? NO! It was HORRIBLE!

Let’s see if I can describe the scene: There was a huge metal cage-like contraption that the cow would be forced to enter. This thingy would gently press on her sides to keep her from bolting to the left or right, and it had a door in the back so she couldn’t back out of it. In the front, it had a “V” shaped opening so she could poke her head and neck through and get a good view of the freedom that was just steps away. The men would look her over, then they would grab this huge, medieval looking syringe thingy that had to be at least a foot long. They’d put whatever medicine the cow needed into it then cram it down her throat. And not in a gentle way, either. It seemed so cruel! And after they were done, they didn’t even rub her shoulders or compliment her on her beautiful cowlicks. They just yanked the door open, slapped her on the rump and sent her running for the hills. It was like a really bad, really cheap date.

Not only was it unpleasant for the cows, it was horrible and terrifying and psychosis inducing for me. I loved the old girls and I hated to hear them crying and being treated so poorly. I would generally start out whimpering and wringing my hands. Then I’d approach the pen and try to whisper sweet nothings to the ladies to calm them. They didn’t seem to appreciate my attempts to make the experience more of a spa-like treatment. They didn’t want to hear me sing (horror of horrors) and they didn’t want to have a little scratch behind the ears. They just acted like prom queens in a small room full of oil roughnecks just off of a 3 month stint. They were scurrying this way and that, screaming at their babies to stay close, and shouting about the indignities of having a foot long syringe shoved down their throat. And I cried and gnashed my teeth and pulled my hair, and screamed at the men not to hurt them.

I was usually ejected from the whole scene pretty quickly. I don’t see why! I mean, what’s one more voice when combined with 50 or 60 screaming cows? I don’t think dad could really hear me screaming, begging, pleading, possibly bartering in an attempt to get him to stop “hurting” the cows. The only thing I can figure is that he got tired of having to peel me out of the chute to get me out of the way of the incoming cow. Or peel me off of the ground to get me out from in front of the chute doorway. Or peel me off the top of the chute while I was trying to comfort old Bessie.

So I’d be sent packing, and them men would keep “abusing” the girls, and the cows would keep hollerin’ and so on and so on and so on.
After it was all said and done, and I was allowed to get back out of the house, I’d go search for the pack of cows. I’d climb up on the fence and start singing to them again. And they’d all wander up and listen and relax. And you know what? After all that screaming and trauma and all the indignities of being treated like a cheap date, those cows didn’t even act like anything bad had happened! As for me, I spent a few days curled in a fetal position, sucking my thumb and rocking back and forth while trying to forget the horror that I had witnessed. Eventually, I would return to my normal state. After singing to the cows. I guess you could say that singing to the girls was cathartic for me, too.

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