01 December 2012

Something 4 The Weekend # 254

Long Fin Killie:  Valentino:  "Matador"  [mp3]

Cows are slow, dumb animals, except that they can run as fast (or faster) than the average human, and when part of a herd, exhibit that so-called "herd mentality" that is frankly, quite chilling.

I lived for a year in Helenville, a very small, unincorporated farming town in south-central Wisconsin.  Our only neighbors, really, were Jerry and Sheri Vanderpoel, who owned the farm next to us, about a half-mile up the road.  They were an older couple, in their sixties, who's children had long ago flew the coop (literally!), and so because of age and circumstance, the Vanderpoels had thinned their herd of Holsteins to about fifty head, and even then, good ol' Jerry had a hard time managing them, because in the year I lived there, I probably had to help corral escaped cows about six or seven times.

In doing so, I ultimately found myself sunk several inches deep into the aromatic muck of the cow pen next to the barn, surrounded by fifty cows, several of which would inevitably start circling me, like seemingly slow, dumb sharks, or a street gang looking for cash and jewelry.

Here are the two things I learned the hard way about handling cows - first - you gotta let 'em know you're the boss, because cattle herds always have a pecking order, and if they sense weakness in you, they'll think you're just another cow (a small, weak, insignificant cow at that), and so they have no reservations about messing with you, muscling and bullying you around.  Imagine three or five or seven cows doing this simultaneously, me getting jostled and knocked around in the muck by these big beasts in close quarters.

Secondly, I learned that you gotta keep talking to the cows so that they know where you are.  Even though cows have eyes on the sides of their heads, their periphery vision isn't all that great, and they get easily agitated and startled unless you're directly in front of them.  When agitated, well, they jostle and nudge even more than usual, and when startled, they'll buck and kick.

In other words, when dealing with cattle, speak softly and carry a big stick. 

Be non-aggressive, be gentle and friendly and re-assuring in your speech and touch, try looking the cow straight in the eye whenever possible, but have that big stick around to defend yourself because they can, and will, mess you up.

Hotcha!  Hank

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