Bovinophobia, A Tall Tale of Badlands Archaeology

April 18, 2010

The recent “happy California cows” ads have succeeded in convincing most people that cows are happy placid animals that have nothing better to do than gossip while munching on grass and chewing their cud, in between milkings, of course. This could not be further from the truth. Cows are vicious, aggressive creatures who hunt in packs. And they’re probably carnivores.

How do I know? From personal experience, of course. I used to be someone who believed that cows were calm and basically a little dim, with kind brown eyes and cute babies. Then late one summer day in my first full field season, I was ordered to do a piece of survey that would lead me through a field of cows. The boss told me that the cows would move away from me and let me pass. Silly me, I believed her.

So with great difficulty, but only one tear in my jeans, I made it over the barbed wire fence and into the field, as the truck disappeared into the distance. All the cows immediately looked at me. I thought they were merely curious; actually, they were starting to plan.

I took a few hesitant steps forward, looking from side to side for any stray artifacts, but any that might have been there were covered with cow flops. The cows moved slowly in my direction. I remembered what the boss had said: if they come towards you, stand still; they have a “personal space” and will stop before they reach you. Silly me; I still believed that. (I didn’t realize that these were actually free range cattle who had been rounded up within the past two days, and stuck into this barbed wire cage. They were not happy cows.)

I walked a few steps more, and one cow stepped out in front, and pawed at the dirt/cowflops and snorted. “Nice cow,” I said. “Be a nice cow. I’m just passing through. Really. I’ll be gone before you know it.”

I don’t know if it was the sound of my voice or the smell of my fear, but the lead cow charged and the rest of the pack followed. I held my ground at first, certain they would stop (after all, the boss SAID they would…), but when they were within about 10 feet and gaining speed, I threw valor to the wind, turned, and ran for my life.

I reached the fence that had given me so much trouble on the way into the field, and just in time, flew over it (Olympics, here I come…). The cows were right behind me, stopping only when the front ranks actually hit the fence. I backed through the ditch and back onto the road, and the cows kept pushing at the fence. Could they get through? Was I doomed?

After about half an hour of standing in the middle of the road and shaking, I noticed that the lead cow seemed to be communicating something to the others. Quickly they spread across the field, returning to pretend to graze. Within minutes the truck returned for me.

No one believed my story. They still don’t, over 30 years later. They all think that Silly Me is terrified of cows for no good reason. They don’t know that vicious carnivorous cows nearly trampled and ate me that hot summer day. But I do, and I remember. And I avoid cows in all forms.

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2 Responses to “Bovinophobia, A Tall Tale of Badlands Archaeology”

  1. Lori,
    Now those may have been cows recently rounded up from the dregs of Hell, but most bovine creatures are gentle souls. Although I remember when we were kids, the neighbor whose cows free-ranged as all our cows did, had one big red cow that we kids were SCARED TO DEATH OF. When we saw this neighbor’s cow we very carefully and very silently made a wide swath around the herd, knowing any minute the old red she-devil would raise her head, spy us with her evil eye and come a-running. so I know what you mean and my heart pounded just reading your account of that devil herd. In my minds eye, they were all red and every single one looked just like our neighbor’s cow. I copied your story to send to my sister in Montana, who raises cows and absolutely loves them. She’ll get a chuckle out of it. Eunie

  2. leescott58 said

    Well, Eunie, it may be that most bovines are gentle. But these were big red cows with evil eyes, every last one of them, and I was on their radar! Calves are darling, and most cows have lovely eyes — but these were the Devil’s herd…

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