[Continued from post of March 22, 2018]
1. Dream Boy
I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, thought Dream Boy. Those stupid cows have gone all the way down to MacPherson’s barley field again. Don’t they remember how sick it made them last time? We nearly lost Emily, for cryin’ out loud. Emily was one of the few cows Dream Boy actually liked.
From the scent trail, they’d been gone quite a while too. And the sun was going down. It set quick this time of year, once it started to go.
He picked up the pace a bit, his easy lope becoming a flat-out gallop as the shadows got longer and the sun began to brush the treetops. He’d have to hustle to get those cows safely home before dark, and it was going to be nip and tuck at that. And Dream Boy knew exactly whose heels he’d be nipping, that’s for sure.
Molly wasn’t hungry anymore. In fact, Molly was soooo full she could hardly move. And she was getting thirsty. And beginning to get very uncomfortable with the pressure of needing to be milked. This wouldn’t happen if they’d let her keep her calves, you know. The calf would just follow her around all day and she’d never get this full of milk. But noooo, they wanted her milk for themselves, and they didn’t want to be milking her 20 times a day, only twice. And so, here she was, all her seams bursting.
She let out a belch. Yep, really, really full. All that barley wasn’t sitting very well in her tummy. She supposed the barley was still a tad green, probably not good for her at all. But she didn’t care. It tasted soooo good. And anyways, she had extra tummies, right? So she belched again, and began to chew the cud that came up with the belch, so she could begin to actually digest it all. Chewing, she ruminated on whether to lie down, right here in the barley field with her 34 partners in crime, or make the effort to try to remember where they had entered this field so many hours ago, and lead them all home.
Now, contrary to popular belief, cows do not lie down to keep their udders dry in the rain. That’s just an old-timey farmer joke that they used to tell to city people. City people didn’t fall for it anymore, but it was still always good for getting a laugh out of the cows. The cows never got tired of that joke. In fact, just thinking about it was making her giggle between the belching and the chewing and the swallowing and the belching. No, cows lie down for the same reasons everybody else does (except goats—nobody knows why goats do anything): because they’re tired of standing on their feet.
Molly wondered now, though, whether lying down would just be the end of her. She certainly couldn’t imagine getting up again, not without a winch. On the other hand, she was getting soooo tired she actually didn’t care if she died right here and now lying down in this field. At least she’d die happy.
So she began to lower herself, folding her front legs to lie down. She had one knee down and one still up in that awkward way of cows when she caught a whiff of a certain peculiar scent wafting on the late afternoon breeze, making her enormous nostrils flare, heading straight for her. She stuck her tongue up each nostril, the way cows do, to rid herself of that smell.
It was that pesky dog. Dammit. She was soooooo busted.
She let fly with another juicy belch, just to let that damn dog know exactly what she thought of him, obnoxious little shit nipping at her heels even when he knew he didn’t have to. Truth is, she could have taken him out anytime with one swift kick to that beautifully modeled head of his, but somehow she never quite got around to it. And maybe she wouldn’t do it today either. Today he’d actually be useful, so she wouldn’t have to figure out how to get the girls home.
Molly sighed loudly, a half-moo, really, to let Dream Boy know she was exasperated with him on general principle, as he stood there barking in her face, and then shook herself to make the bell around her neck ring, signaling the herd to get up and come along now.
Dream Boy was some pissed, I tell you, and wouldn’t stop barking until she lowered her huge head, mooed right back at him, and stared him down. Then he deked around to her hindquarters and nipped her hock, just a little harder than absolutely necessary to get her moving, and quickly jumped back to avoid the lethal hoof she raised, just to give it a little shake.
Molly began lumbering ahead of the dog, the rest of the herd lining up obediently behind them, as if nothing had happened.
3. Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch
Sara ran for the truck in the yard, jumping into her boots as she raced out the door, nearly running right into Tom as they both reached the driver’s side at the same time.
“I’ll go,” he said.
She simply nodded and turned back to the house to stay by the phone, in case one of the neighbours called with news of the cows. The rest of the critters would have to wait. They could only hope it wouldn’t be too long.
Sara sat watching the sun go down, sipping tea, watching anxiously, watching out the kitchen window for any sign of cows or dog, watching out the front window for any sign of the truck coming back up the driveway. She loved sunsets, always had. She had hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos of sunsets that she’d taken all over the world. She loved the changing colours, the intensity of the palette fading into pastels and then gradually coming into full darkness; that sense of a hinge, a magical pause in the day, between daylight and twilight; that single peaceful moment like no other, the slight melancholy that comes with an ending, and the hush of a held breath.
A flash of memory: her first time in Key West, and her absolute delight when she discovered that watching the sunset was a local sport in Key West, like Happy Hour or hanging out at Sloppy Joe’s. They’d put out a sign every day by the entrance to Mallory Square, announcing what time the sun would go down, and every day, well before that time, all the cruise ships would move away from the pier so as not to block the view from the Square, where every day hundreds of people would gather to watch the show, cameras clicking and whirring as they all tried to get the Perfect Sunset Picture.
She remembered all the buskers performing in the Square before and after the main act: the pair of tattooed fire eaters, the crazy dude on the giant unicycle who juggled knives and flaming batons—and his hat—while riding the unicycle. He stood on the seat, stood on his hands, did all kinds of impossible feats that had them all breathless and more than happy to throw a few dollars into his hat at the end of each show. And then there was the Cat Man, who had trained a herd of cats to walk along a velvet rope like they used to have at the movies, stretched from one end of his little stage to the other. They would jump through hoops, even flaming ones, held over the rope, with no hesitation. He bribed them with shrimp. She also remembered a cute bit of stage business he would do with just one of the cats, when walking from one end of the rope to the other: the cat would tangle itself around his legs, the way cats do, so the two of them would do this funny little pas de deux, winding their way together across the stage, the Cat Man reciting, with his charming French accent, “Hurrrry up, take yourrr time, hurrrry up, take yourrr time,” much to the delight of the crowd.
When Sara asked him, after the show, how he had managed to persuade so many cats to do these things, he said simply, they have to want to. Just like anyone, she supposed, horses for sure, goats, dogs, and even cows.
Just as she had that thought about cows, she heard the rumble of the truck from the end of the driveway, and then, very faintly, the jangle of a distant cow bell from the path to the back forty. From the sound of it, Molly was moving at a pretty good clip. Dream Boy must be some pissed to get her moving that fast. Indeed, a moment later, she could see Molly, trotting as fast as she’d ever seen a cow move, and no wonder, with Dream Boy hot on her heels.
Sara stood up and slipped her feet into her barn boots. It was going to be a long, long evening, getting the girls counted, milked, fed, checked for injury or illness, and bedded down for the night, then getting all the rest of the stock looked after. She could hear the chickens squabbling irritably, the pigs grunting impatiently, hungry, as the last of the herd rounded the corner and headed into the paddock, Dream Boy barking now to get his people to come and take over. His work was done.
Sara watched as Dream Boy met Tom at the truck, plumed tail waving, accepting a head scratch and a “good boy, good boy, very good boy, such a very good boy, who’s a good boy, that’s my Dream Boy.”
Photo credits: Cow by Ross Sokolovski on Unsplash; Sunset at Mallory Square Copyright © 2018 Tunde Nemeth