The Cow Says: Boo
it's Halloween, or whatever. Not much of a holiday anymore, if you
the looks of things, most of the festivities have already taken place, as they
do these days, on the Friday night preceding the 31st. I still find it a
I was a kid, Halloween was Halloween, no matter what day it fell on. Sure,
it was cool when it was a Friday or Saturday, but if it wasn't, no matter.
Traditions were upheld. We still dressed up in costumes we made ourselves,
and watched as people tried to figure out what we were supposed to be (the most
heartbreaking comment I got was when I was dressed as a medieval knight, a
costume I had slaved over, and someone asked me where my spaceship was).
still went door-to-door for candy in strange neighborhoods, sans parents, firing
apples back at the houses stupid enough to distribute them. Toothbrushes
and pencils? As Halloween goodies? *Snap* Add to the pile at
the bottom of the driveway, move along.
went to that one house, where they left a big bowl of candy on a chair outside
the door with a sign that said "Just Take One!" and just took many,
many more than one, then ran away when the door flew open, because the owner had
been watching through the peephole. Why standing at the peephole all night
is somehow easier than answering the door a few times an hour, I don't know.
the spookiest Halloween I ever had came as an adult, not as a child. It
was about four years ago, when I was living in the hills of Marin County in
friend Dave had invited me to a Halloween party, so I got dressed up as a
pirate, hopped into my car, and started the drive down the long, narrow, winding
dirt road that led from the house.
had to stop, as I often did, for the cows. The neighbor had a herd of
cattle that grazed all over the top of the hill, and they were milling around
that night, about thirty of them, although as skittish as they were, they
quickly fled from my headlights. I drove on.
halfway down the hill, I saw another set of headlights approaching, and stopped
my car. The road was so narrow that only one car could fit on it at a
time, and the rule was, the person coming up would make way for the person
driving down, the logic being that it was a lot easier to back down the steep
hill than up it. This was still an often tricky maneuver, particularly at
night, particularly this night, because there wasn't even a moon out. The
sky was completely covered with clouds, so the only light was from our
headlights, which were currently pointing into each others eyes.
car didn't seem to be making way for me. We sat there for a minute,
playing stationary chicken, and finally out of impatience, I turned my wheel to
the right, gave it a little gas, and suddenly felt my car tilt about 45 degrees
to the right. I heard a grinding, scraping noise, followed by the
not-unfamiliar sound of me cussing my brains out.
car had slid halfway into the drainage ditch. It was lucky this hadn't
happened another hundred feet down the road, because there the ditch widened
into somewhat of a canyon. As I sat there in horror, the other car
squeezed past me, and as I shouldered my door open and clambered out, I saw that
it wasn't stopping to help me. Its taillights disappeared at the top of
the hill, leaving me in darkness.
More cussing followed, including a suggestion that the driver engage in an
unlikely, perhaps impossible, act of masturbation.
car was stuck. The right front tire and the rear left tire were in the
air, the bottom of the car was sitting firmly on the edge of the road. I
could rock the car back and forth just by leaning my weight on it. I
rocked it back and forth for a while, but it wasn't as much fun as you might
this was somewhat of a problem. I was about a half-mile from the top of
the hill, where the house was, and about a half-mile from the bottom of the
hill, where nothing was, nothing but the road leading to town, which was another
five miles away, and in the town itself was nothing, since it was a nothing sort
of town. It seemed like the best idea was to head back to the house and
glumly searched my car for a flashlight, glum mostly because I knew I didn't
have one. I'm not one of those "prepared" people who "think
ahead" and "do smart things" like "have flashlights in their
cars". So, I pulled up my pirate pants, and started walking up the
hill. On the winding road. In total darkness.
stumbled off the path several times, generally into the ditch, sometimes into
the bushes, and once into what I described at the moment as a "fucking
bastard hole". Finally, after about forty-five minutes of careful
shuffling, the ground seemed to level off and I was on top of the hill.
started making my way towards what I hoped was the house, although it was so
dark I couldn't see anything, not even my hands in front of my face. I
knew this because I tried it, actually standing there while slowly waving my
hands in front of my face. Nothing.
something. A sound. Not so much a sound as... a snort.
stood there a few moments, and heard another snort, followed by another, this
last one about three inches from my left ear. I had forgotten about the
cows, and now I was surrounded by them. In pitch darkness.
I've never found cows to be particularly intimidating or fearsome. The
cover of a horror comic will never read "SURROUNDED BY COWS!"
Cows just aren't scary. They always seem docile and slow and good-natured.
I had spent a lot of time tramping around the woods and fields on the hill, and
when I would walk near the cows, they'd generally avoid me. Like when I
had driven up to them an hour ago: skittish. Nothing to get alarmed about.
at this moment, I was pretty goddamned alarmed. Skittish is not a
characteristic to be desired in a group of 1,200-pound animals that you are
standing in the midst of. Especially when one of them, the biggest,
meanest one (in my fevered imagination, anyway) started pawing the ground.
Or hoofing the ground, I guess, although that doesn't sound right.
seen Bugs Bunny. I knew that when the bull starts pawing the ground, it
means he's about to charge into the anvil Bugs has behind his cape. I
didn't have an anvil. I'm not one of those people who "have anvils in
was going to die, and I could already see the headlines: DEAD PIRATE FOUND
TRAMPLED BY CATTLE
I could see was them finding me the next morning. A dead, crushed pirate,
lying in a field up on a hill. I imagined a great many pirates died from
shark bites and the like, but I doubted one had ever been killed by
bovine-related violence. It just didn't happen.
I inched my way through them. I could hear cows breathing on all sides of
me. They were nervous, I could tell, and I felt sure they could tell I was
nervous. Cows can sense fear.
were more snorts. I could hear the shifting of immense bodies. The
frightened flicking of an ear. Death was mere inches away, and She was
slowly chewing Her cud.
to say, I somehow made it through the cattle alive. They didn't stampede,
I didn't wet myself, a tow truck came a few hours later and somehow pulled my
car free, and I didn't wind up as a just another (yet somewhat interesting)
though... my life was never the same. I think those cows put a curse on
me. I can't enjoy a glass of milk or an ice-cream cone without hunching
over and passing explosive gas (although this may having something to do with
being lactose intolerant). And sometimes, late at night... particularly
this night, All Hallow's Eve... I think I can hear a distant mooing.
just be my neighbor though.
a little weird.