The Cow, the Front-end Loader, and the Brilliance of Intellect: An Iowa Tale

On a visit to my wife’s aunt and uncle in a very small town that shall remain nameless, one of them related the following, reproduced here as accurately as I can make it. (You need to know that their house sits at the edge of a very large treed lot.)

The husband and wife of the household were sitting peacefully at home when the doorbell rang. A very contrite gentleman, apparently the owner of the large white pickup truck and cattle trailer parked outside, had some bad news for them, which he proceeded to relate: it seems that he’d been delivering a cow to the meat processing plant on the edge of town and was leading the animal from the trailer to the loading dock when another truck suddenly roared out of the gravel parking lot, scattering stones and dust, whereupon the cow promptly bolted and headed into town.

(“Mad cow! Mad cow!”)

For the next couple of hours, the town maintenance man and the local constable pursued the animal from house to house. Eventually the beleaguered bovine took refuge in the peaceful yard of my wife’s relatives, where it stood under the sheltering boughs of a tall pine tree. One would think this the perfect opportunity to rope the beast and lead it away, but instead, declaring the harried animal to be wild and dangerous, the constable pulled out his revolver and shot the cow in the head, dropping it where it stood. This presented the posse with a dilemma, as a dead cow is not an easy thing to move. However, the enterprising maintenance man retrieved the town’s front-end loader, which proved equal to the task, but only barely. With the carcass hoisted in the air, he attempted to drive out of the yard, but the front-end loader got stuck in the rain-softened ground. By the time he finally worked his way to the pavement, there was a huge trench in the yard. (Note that all this transpired without my wife’s relatives hearing or noticing a thing!)

After explaining all this, the man at the front door promised to return the next day and repair the damage to the yard, seeing as it was his cow that had caused all the trouble. My wife’s aunt would have none of it, however, insisting that the town was responsible, considering that the constable had come onto their property and executed the cow without bothering to ask permission. She promptly confronted the posse, who had it all figured out:

Maintenance man: “No problem, I’ll just go get a load of dirt to fill the hole!”

Constable: “That’s a mighty big trench. You’re gonna need TWO loads…”

Maintenance man: “Oh, I dunno, one ought to do it.” Etc., etc.

This just made my wife’s aunt more angry, and she forbade either of them to do the work. Finally the two of them agreed to summon professional help, and the next day the town paid for a nurseryman to fill the hole, reseed, and clean everything up.

(He did a good job, too, because I couldn’t see a thing wrong with the lawn.)

John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • argun June 8, 2009, 6:39 AM

    I like all the news with your family 🙂

  • Sherry June 8, 2009, 12:22 PM

    Thanks for the chuckle. I really needed one today. The mental image of the poor cow, the “local constable” and the town maintenance man (the town has a “maintenance” man!?!) all seems a little keystone cops. And the fact that nobody heard a thing! What a hoot!

  • JHF June 8, 2009, 3:45 PM

    Well, I don’t know what the “maintenance man’s” real title is, but he’s the guy who’s supposed to run the street sweeper, etc. That never happens, BTW, because no one knows how to operate it…

    Every word of this true, of course. And I’m glad you like it too, Argun!

  • Mtnred June 9, 2009, 9:27 AM

    So, did the cow’s owner get to sell the cow? It’s not his fault that the guy was trigger happy.

  • JHF June 11, 2009, 11:05 AM

    Mtnred, I don’t know. But I assume so, although one never knows what the regulations are…

  • jinxtigr June 17, 2009, 3:15 AM

    Hehe- “you shot it, you bought it!”

  • Jack June 17, 2009, 7:52 AM

    Having some experience with escaped cows, I believe the regulations forbid the sale of DOA animals by meat packers. However, the farmer could still butcher the cow and keep the meat for his own use.

  • Barry June 17, 2009, 8:06 AM

    A friend who was in the Peace Corps in Botswana way back related the tale of the school’s hot lunch program – they shot and cooked a cow every day (or at least several times per week). He learned this by hearing the gunshot on his first morning of teaching.

    One day, the cow broke loose, and ran away. The guy with the rifle shot it as it ran, dropping it in the soccer field. Not having a front-end loader, they butchered it on the spot.

    That Saturday, when the visiting team arrived for soccer, they saw the humongous bloodstain on the soccer field, and refused to play. Not for sanitary reasons, but because they figured that Something Bad had happened to the last visiting team.

  • JHF June 17, 2009, 9:04 AM

    Jack: that makes perfect sense. I wonder if the owner got compensated by the town?

    Barry: I LOVE that story! Quite the hot lunch program. 🙂 And I’m right with the visiting soccer team…

  • Jack Corey June 17, 2009, 4:28 PM

    At least they didn’t decide to use explosives, like the authorities out on the Oregon coast:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr_Zu6vxWEo

  • Dominion June 18, 2009, 7:51 AM

    I was a cow farmer for some years in Marlin Texas. There are a few aspects to this story that really leaves me wondering. For example…

    We don’t eat cows, we don’t butcher cows. We butcher calves and not female calves but male calves. Tho such calves can be somewhat big and heavy, it is nowhere near as big and heavy as a cow.

    Whenever a city fella would come out and talk about eating a cow my dad would look at them with a squint in his eye and say “Calves is for eatin, cows are for breedin”.

  • JHF June 18, 2009, 9:36 AM

    Dominion, I appreciate the voice of experience! Love the recollection of your dad’s comment, too.

    As for this tale, it’s reported as I heard it, with the exception of some stronger language used by one of the parties involved. 🙂 So who knows? But I thought that cows were butchered these days, like when dairy farmers thin their herds. Is that just not true?

    When I heard the story, it was definitely “cow,” and these were Iowans. But they may have been using the term generically, or in city slicker fashion.

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