by Larry Floersch
I just saw a video on YouTube of cows doing tricks. I do not know if the person who posted that video did so to sound an alarm or just to scare the daylights out of people like me.
These cows were not doing cute circus-type tricks — you know, jumping through flaming hoops or dancing on hind legs in tutus at the commands of a trainer. No, these were tricks devised by the cows themselves, and that to me is a scary proposition. One cow used its tongue to slide the top and bottom latches of a gate to open it. Another cow used its chin to push down the handle of an old-fashioned water pump. When the water came gurgling out, it slurped it up, then repeated the process, over and over. Yet another cow used its horn to turn a spigot so it could slake its thirst. The most amazing one used its horn to open the stanchion lock above its head, then withdrew itself from the stanchion and opened the stanchion locks of two colleagues to its right. There was gluttonous intent behind this action. When the two other cows withdrew their heads, the one that had unlocked the stanchions shoved them out of the way, stuck its head into the second cow’s stanchion, and directly into a bucket of food beyond. It had planned the whole thing! Who knew cows were that smart?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Lare, haven’t you seen those Chick-fil-A ads on TV where cows parachute into a football stadium or adjust the office lights in a high rise to spell out ‘Eat mor chikin’.” Yes, I have. But those are actors portraying cows on television, not real cows. “How do you know this?” you ask. Simple. No flies. No dingleberries. “What’s a dingleberry?” you ask. Don’t ask! Just let it be said that being struck with dingleberries while sitting on a milking stool is like being lashed in the face with a cat-o’-nine-tails.
I’m from the old school of thought, where behind Bossie’s big and soft brown eyes lies a vacant room. The revelation that cows may be way smarter than I thought has caused me to reevaluate events I remember from my youth. When I was about seven years old and staying on my grandparents’ farm, I witnessed a steer walk through the wall of the cow shed. The walls of this cow shed were made from reclaimed three-quarter-inch tongue-and-groove lumber that in a previous life had formed the side of a railroad boxcar, so it was no small feat. Back then I thought it was just a dumb thing to do. You know, “But hey, it’s a cow. What do you expect?” In light of this new information on cow tricks, I now can only surmise that the other cows in the shed put him up to it and then stood there snickering at his gullibility, kind of like the amusement one enjoys by convincing another kid to put his tongue on a flagpole in January. And I’m now relieved that he only walked through the wall of the cowshed and not the wall of the farmhouse, where he could have discovered what was in the freezer.
Because I live in an area where I am surrounded by cows, I have now grown more wary of cow activity. Just a few weeks ago, while things were still thawing out, I came to the end of my driveway to discover the road pockmarked by hundreds of hoof prints. I got out of my car and investigated and determined that they were indeed the hoof prints of cows. My neighbor up the road leases his barn to a large dairy operation a few miles away. I think it’s where they keep the junior varsity squad. So I assumed the cows that made the hoof prints came from his barn. The question was, where were they going? I followed the tracks.
To my shock, about a quarter mile down the road the hoof prints stopped. They did not turn up the shoulder of the road to the left nor turn down the bank to the right, they just plain stopped.
Only one explanation for this ghost herd mystery is possible to someone raised in front of a TV in the 1960s. The bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise, flying in a stolen Romulan Bird of Prey battle cruiser, used that “slingshot-around-the-sun” maneuver to travel back in time to our 21st century Earth. As he always somehow manages to do, Scotty got the transporter working at the last possible second and beamed the cows up, much like he beamed up the humpback whales in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” The cows probably milled about the cargo bay looking for something to do. And because we now know they’re smarter than we thought, they may easily have overpowered the security detail (the guys in the red tunics) and taken over the ship. Right now there could be 20 to 30 Holsteins overhead in standard orbit, phasers on stun, intentions unknown.