Growing up half Canadian, I spent a lot of summers on my grandparent’s farm in Amherstburg, Ontario. My grandpa (Pipi, as we called him – the French slang word for “Grandfather”) raised cows, among other things. As a young lad, I used to spend a lot of time out on the farm, helping feed the animals and frequently playing in the fields where they grazed. Sometimes, I’d taunt the cows by running past them and making rude flatulent noises while sticking out my tongue. On more daring days, I would fling various projectiles through the air, attempting to start a ground war. It was these kinds of moments that shaped the life of this lively 6 year old explorer.
One day, while out taunting the cows, I had an idea: rather than exit the pasture via the usual way (by climbing over the wooden fence), I decided to see if I could fit through the fence. After all, I was quite small and skinny back then, and using my eyes to judge the distance between the wooden planks, I figured I could make it out ok before one of the cows came after me in vengeance. Note that I now wear glasses, and from this day onward no longer relied on my eyesight to judge any distance, near of far. You’ll soon find out why.
As I slipped through the fence, feet first, then legs, then torso, then body, it became apparent to me that I had a larger than normal head. This was in an apparent attempt to make up for my smaller than normal brain which was often used for such important daily activities as throwing rocks, poop, and random fallen fruit at the wildlife in and around the farm. It was at this moment that I realized that while 90% of my body could fit easily through the planks, my head could not, at least not without a little work. So, I turned my head sideways, thinking of course that I could slip through the fence that way. It didn’t work.
While most people’s heads are oblong, mine seemed to be a perfect sphere, if not in appearance, then certainly in shape. Realize, of course, that this was at 6 years old, long before my wrestling days when my head was warped into its current oblong shape by generous wrestling partners who were much larger than I, often using my head as a butt rest while waiting for the ref to blow his whistle. Astute friends of mine have probably noticed the permanently etched “Everlast” scar on my right temple. But that’s another story… I digress…
Once I had figured out that I could not in fact escape the taunted herd in this manner, the obvious choice was to get back out of the fence the way I got in and then do the regular climb-over method which had worked hundreds of times before. It was at this moment that I discovered that there were in fact several large very mad cows all about me, and they weren’t really thrilled with my attempt to “entertain” them. In fact, they seemed a bit ticked off for some unknown reason. However, they seemed somewhat amused at the predicament I was in. Panicking, I attempted one last time to rip my head through the gate. There simply wasn’t enough time to back out of my plan – Elsie and her posse were now too close and she was carrying one heck of a chip on her shoulder (not to mention the plethora of larger, more odorous chips surrounding her).
Rather than avenge for past atrocities against cowkind, Elsie & Co chose instead to take advantage of my predicament for the simple pleasure of a mid-afternoon salt lick buffet. Yes, it seems that the human head, for all its uses, can be quite a source of salt and water for a bunch of rabid, thirsty, and mad cows. Of course, at the tender age of 6, I did not know that the cows were not interested in eating me as much as they were interested in using me as a giant sucker (pun intended). So, I screamed as one-by-one, each mad cow took their turn licking my big dumb head. All the while, I continued to attempt to break my head free from the fence, figuring that sooner or later either my head or the fence would give. Fortunately, after what seemed like an eternity, I broke through the fence and I was free.
It was at this moment that I vowed never to throw rocks, poop or fruit at any of the cows again. Or, if I did, at least I wouldn’t be so stupid as to attempt an escape through a fence. Duh – how dumb can one be? I mean, it takes a certain level of intelligence to spend ones time throwing rocks, poop and rotten apples, but to climb through fences – well, that’s just plain stupid. So, I walked back to the farmhouse and went into the bathroom to clean up. I chalked that whole experience up to another important life lesson regarding wildlife, similar to the one I learned the year before when I attempted to send my sister’s hamster into outer space. But that’s another story… I digress…
This whole experience would be but a memory in my mind today if it weren’t for my grandma. You see, that night, she gave me a bath and was quite concerned over the dozens of huge scratch marks and gashes that surrounded my neck area. I told her I just had a bunch of itches and scratches that day, but for some oddball reason she didn’t believe me. I finally told her the whole humiliating story, and she laughed. Then she told Pipi, and he laughed. Then she called my mom, and she laughed. Each holiday and Christmas after, for the past 47 years, this story has been recounted over and over at each family gathering.
The story is very funny now, but back then it was not so funny. I developed moo-phobia, which is a fear of cows. For years, I would not get near the cows. I would walk around the pasture to avoid them. I’d feed them from a distance, throwing feed into their bins instead of getting close and dumping them in. Once, a cow got loose and I saw it out of the living room window. I fainted. To this day, I don’t drink milk, I don’t have any close friends that are cows, and I find it somewhat therapeutic every time I drive a knife into a steak.
In a somewhat ironic twist, I also now find myself working in the dairy industry. When I “downsized” my career a few months back, I took on a programming job from Valley Ag Software (www.vas.com). They write software for the dairy industry. So now, my life is full of analytic data and programs to monitor the health and well-being of cows. It’s udderly hilarious, I know. Life mooves in mysterious ways.