Monthly Archives: April 2010

Bovine Code Red!

I’m happy to report that the farmhouse is now complete and has been certified as habitable by the local council!

But we’re not completely done because we are now converting the old milking shed into a plant nursery where we will propagate seedlings for the revegetation project. 

So we are still being visited by builders and the other day we had an early meeting with the horticulturalist and the builder.  Rather than get up early and drive out in the morning, we figured we would go out the night before and stay at the farm, which was the whole point of building the house in the first place.

It was so peaceful and restful and I slept so soundly I didn’t even get up to go out in the middle of the night to check out the stars. 

Good thing.  Danger lurked.

The next morning, well after dawn, we woke up.  Excitedly, I opened the bedroom blinds to have a look at the place in the morning light.

And aged a few centuries. 

Less than twenty feet away and staring into my eyes was the biggest, ugliest cow I’ve ever seen.  It didn’t have a ring it its nose and smoke wasn’t coming out of its nostrils, but it was still terrifying.

Actually, though, terror wasn’t my first reaction.  The first was a sort of cognitive aphasia in which I was unable to process what I was seeing.  We don’t have any cows on the property just now and we’ve spent a lot of time and effort making sure the fences are secure to keep the neighbors’ cows at bay.  So what I was seeing just couldn’t be.

When I finally became convinced that, yes, there was a cow outside my bedroom window my next reaction was  It better not shit on my nice new driveway.  Or worse on the patio tiles I’d just personally installed. 

My wife and I then had a perfectly rational conversation about the fact that there had been a bovine incursion onto the property. 

The part that wasn’t so rational was the conclusion that I should go out and do something about it.

Over the years I’ve gone out of my way to avoid ungulate interaction.  Maybe it’s the whole cloven hoof business.  What I do know, intellectually, is that they are relatively harmless.  I just have a hard time really believing that when I get close to one and see how huge they really are.  And how irrationally they generally seem to behave. 

Not only did I not want to deal with the beast, to be honest I didn’t know how to deal with it.  I didn’t have a convenient length of rope that I could lasso it with.  Can you picture that?  I also didn’t know where the thing had come from.  Or how it had gotten in.   The farm is supposed to be surrounded by stock proof fencing.  Obviously not.  It must have somehow squeezed or pushed its way through some part of the fence.

It was highly unlikely that I would be able to find the opening.  And highly impossible that I would be able to escort the beast back through where ever it came from.  It’s not like walking a dog.

Fortunately, both the guys we were meeting with that morning had grown up on farms and once they arrived, everything was under control (i.e., out of my hands).

They figured out where the cow had come from and devised a way to secure him until the owner could come get him.  We were going to get the cow into one of our gated paddocks adjacent to the neighbour’s boundary.

The challenge was getting it into the paddock.  The customary way is to form a gauntlet, as it were, and to drive the cow(s) from point A to point B.  But moving one cow in the right direction is a lot harder than moving a bunch of them.  We were aiming him toward a six foot wide gate.  And there were only three of us.  Well actually, those two guys and me.

The plan was to form a semicircle and move in the direction we wanted the beast to go.  Its flight mechanism would make it move inexorably toward the gate.

Another reason I’ve historically given cows a wide berth is because you have to watch every step when you are around them.  A reality of cow pastures is cow pies. 

Well, this time the rules were different.  Looking down was out of the question.  We had to watch the cow to see where it was going.  And because it was a little panicked  it decided to run around in a random zig zag pattern.  The zags were often straight at me!

So there I was running around chasing and being chased by this cow.  Now I know how those guys in Pamplona feel.

Not only that, I wouldn’t have thought the cow had been around long enough to drop so many bombs.  They were everywhere and I think I hit every one of them as I sprinted wildly around.  Walking in the pastures is hard enough because the ground is surprisingly uneven.  Running is virtually impossible and when your traction is compromised by cow shit, it’s even worse.  It was awful.

All I could think of was what an ignominious end it would be if I slipped and broke my neck.  How would you like that on your tombstone?

Here Lies Thomas

A man of the city

He was chased by a cow

And his demise was shitty

Anyway, we finally got the cow where we wanted it.

And I took my second shower of the morning.

Don’t Worry, Kids!

The big news down here these days?  Someone did some research and it came to us in the form of the headline “What’s Bugging the Nation’s Children?”  The article explains that an academic surveyed 8-12 year olds to find out what worries them. 

The reason that these things get my attention (and scare the heck out of me) is because down here an article like this will probably generate a few government inquiries and the establishment of a few new government departments (duly overseen by the Children’s Commissioner) to eliminate these wrinkles in the fabric of what should be an idyllic time of life. 

You may find this hard to believe, but the researcher identified 29 “common” issues that caused stress for little kids.  That implies that there are a lot more that didn’t make the “common” cut.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of my childhood, and even my adulthood to be honest, I’m not sure I could ever find 29 things to stress about.

The article describes the way findings of similar studies over the years have yielded different results.  According to the article, in the 70s and 80s, kids were worried about ‘family issues’ and peer pressure.  But.  By the 1990s, bullying, being hurt, stranger danger, natural disasters and ‘being touched inappropriately’ had joined the list.

Where do kids learn this stuff? 

That was in the 90s, but life is even more worrisome here in century XXI.  Now, in addition to all those other things, children toss and turn all night worrying about global warming, terrorism, wars and the future. 

I’m surprised that whaling isn’t on the list.

To be honest, the article leads me to believe that kids today are, for lack of a better word, neurotic.  One is quoted as saying:  “I’m worried about the environment and the global warming, the ice and how it’s going.  I write it down in my little notebook. [Are you kidding me? –Ed.] I’m thinking people should actually stop the global warming before it’s too late for their children.”

The article got me to thinking, and I decided to do some field research of my own by asking my nephews about what was stressing them out.  They are 7 and 9, just like the kids in the research survey.

What you are about to read is true.

It is a tribute to my brother- and sister-in-law that the boys’ initial response to the question of “what stresses you out,” was “Nothing.” 

I tried to coax out some information, but they were fairly adamant that they didn’t have too much to worry about.  After all, they have a loving family and live in a relatively peaceful society.  Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky.

But I still thought that there must be something that bothers them.  I’m not saying that the researcher in the article did the same thing, but only when I started to ask specific questions did they admit to any worries.

Their biggest worry, it seems, is getting too much homework.  They hate homework. 

The thing that stresses them out the most is each other.  It is a challenge to have to share stuff and, more important, to show restraint in the face of teasing, tattling and other breaches of etiquette.  Thinking back to when my brother and I were 7 and 9, I accept that as a legitimate stressor. 

But after reading the article, such concerns seemed a little pedestrian.

I kept trying.  I asked “Are there any times you can’t sleep because something is bothering you?”

Long pause, then, “Yeah.”

Aha, I thought.  “And when is that?”

“When it’s too hot.”

“But what bothers you most?” 

“I guess unfairness on the playground.”

Aha, I thought.  “You mean bullying?”

“No when someone doesn’t play fair.  Like they hog the ball or cheat.”

Finally, I could take it no longer.  “But don’t you worry about things like global warming?”

“Oh yeah.  Global warming.  I don’t like it.”

“Why not?”

“Because the ice is going to melt and we are all going to drown.”

“When?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you worry a lot about global warming?”

“No.  Just when I hear something on the news or the teacher talks about it.”

 “Do you know if there is anything we can do to stop it?”

“No.  They just told us it was going to happen someday.”

It was clear that tomorrow’s homework volume was a more pressing concern than the polar ice caps.

The seven year old chimed in.  “I hope we get global freezing instead!”

“Why?”

“Because then we could walk out on the ocean and look through the ice and see Atlantis!”

That’s when I realized that we probably don’t need any government programs to allay the children’s fears.  You probably had some things that kept you awake when you were a little one.  I sure did.  But my parents were adept at mind reading and minimizing the problem. 

It reminded me that when I was the same age as my nephews, a teacher told us that the Russians had enough nukes to kill each of us 110 times.   And they really wanted to use them, too.  And if they didn’t do it, the Chinese had even itchier trigger fingers.

I went home that day and told my parents. 

They told me to go out and play.