Casselman Chronicle - 2005
The Night Encounter
by Pleasant Meadows
Billy had just left the 4-H meeting at the Sunnyside Grange Hall (now
a church) and was on his way home. It was early spring and he could
hear the frogs singing along the bottom as he approached Cherry Creek.
His route was along U.S. 219 for about a mile, and then he would cut
through Swartzentruber's fields just past the Garber place. It was a
nice evening but the sun had set and it was pitch black. This didn't
bother Billy for he knew the way by heart. He could even find the
fences without actually seeing them. As he walked along he thought
about the events of the evening and a thousand other things that enter
a young boy's mind. He had no fear of the dark since he knew the wat
and he knew that there was nothing out there that he had to fear. He
found the fence at the edge of the Garber place and crawled under the
barbed wire. Another half hour and he would be home eating a bedtime
snack. A hoot owl was hooting along Cherry Creek and with some
pleasure he heard a whippoorwill winging over on the ridge above his
A Big Bump in the Path
Suddenly his feet bumped into something in his path. Since this was an
open field, he had been walking rather fast. His momentum caused him
to fall forward and as he did he landed on an object much larger than
he was. As he fell, this thing began to lift him into the air. Horror
stricken, the only exclamation that came from Billy's mouth was, "Oh,
At this point it might be well if I digress just a little and provide
you, dear reader, with some background information. Every spring,
farmers in this area watch anxiously as the fields begin to lose their
snow cover and the brown turns to green. As the grass starts to grow,
there is an art to deciding when you turn your cows out to pasture. If
you turn them out too soon, the cows cause a lot of damage to the
pastures and groth is hindered for the entire growing season. If you
start pasturing too late, the rapidly growing grass will get ahead of
the grazing and a lot of good pasture is wasted. In the end, the early
groth and best groth must be clipped much too soon in hopes of the new'
growth providing the necessary nourishment for the herd.
Christian Garber, known affectionately as "Chris," was a good farmer.
He knew that now was the time to put his cows out to pasture. Just
after milking that evening, he opened the pasture gate and watched as
his cows romped and relished the fresh growth. Farmers in that day had
the habit of naming their cows. Today, with larger herds, some use a
numbering system, but then it was just natural to call your cows by
name. One of his cows was called Blackie. Holstein-Friesian cattle are
normally black and white and Blackie was mostly black. She was a good
milker, and she was delighted to fill her belly with the new grass
along with the rest of the herd.
Being one of the more prominent cows in the herd, she was expected to
lead the way. For that reason, as the herd filled their rumens
(stomachs) and laid down to rest and chew their cuds, Blackie was out
in front. It was so peaceful in the pasture and it wasn't long before
she was sound asleep.
Walking in new grass causes very little sound and because of the
blackness of the situation, neither Billy nor Blackie were aware of
each other's presence. The first thing Blackie knew was something had
attacked her, landing across her back. Instinct took over from there.
Expecting to feel teeth and claws ripping into her flesh, she leaped
to her feet and rushed headlong for the safety of the herd, this
creature clinging to her back making weird sounds that frightened her
A Rocky Ride
But Billy was having troubles of his own. This thing picked him up and
was propelling him into the darkness with increasing speed. It was
jarring him with a jarring, rocking motion as it moved and he became
aware of more creatures rising up out of the ground and rushing off
into the darkness.
Anyone who has watched a rodeo ought to get an idea that cows really
don't like something on their backs but this is where the similarity
ends. Rodeo bulls are usually selected from beef breeds that are well
fleshed and huge. On the other hand, Blackie was a Holstein, a dairy
cow. Generations of selective breeding have made her into a very
narrow, angular, bony creature whose sole purpose in life is to
produce as much milk as possible. The spiny edge of her backbone was
less than two inches wide, dropping off on each side to a wide barrel
of the heart girth and stomach. Every time Blackie loped forward,
Billy was being jarred down on the narrow spine, nearly cutting him in
two. And there was absolutely nothing to hold on to. Blackie began to
sense this as she rushed into the main body of the herd.
There is a funny thing about cows on new pasture in the spring. They
just love the new, green grass but it really works on their digestive
system. Their manure gets so thin and loose that it is nearly the
consistancy of water. The best I can describe it is a green slime. For
those of you who are city slickers, you can experiment if you want.
Buy the biggest spinach you can find and eat most of it yourself. Wait
about four to five hours and take a couple Ex-lax tablets, washing
them down with at least a half-gallon of water. This will get you
close to what I'm trying to describe. Any sudden movement or exertion
and whatever is in the bowels of the cow nearly explodes as it is
released. And stink, it almost burns your eyes.
By this time Billy is beginning to wonder if this thing that has him
might just be a cow. Before he can say for sure, Blackie decides that
she has had just about enough of this thing and with a buck and a turn
that would have made a rodeo bull proud, she pitches the thing high in
the air and runs in the opposite direction.
Riding a rodeo bull is a tough job and while Blackie was just a milk
cow, I have a few words to say in defense of Billy. First of all,
those riders know what's coming. Billy didn't have a clue. Secondly,
you never see a bull rider come out of the chute draped across the
middle of the bull.
Finally, you must remember the circumstances. Billy was just as
anxious to get rid of this thing as Blackie was. When he went in the
air it was with a sense of relief even though he was expecting a
sudden stop when he hit the ground. Well, it didn't work that way
You see, by this time Billy was climbing the sloping ground at the
edge of Cherry Creek Valley. There was fresh dew on that new green
grass and there was the slope. One other thing. Do you remember that I
told you that Blackie ran toward the main part of the herd? She bucked
Billy off right in the middle of the spot that had just been vacated
by twenty or so highly frightened cows who had been scared out of a
sound sleep and who had bellies full of fresh green grass. Billy was
propelled downhill at about the top speed milk cows can reach, landing
on fresh green grass covered with dew and lots of green slime. He slid
and rolled for at least fifty feet.
As Blackie and the resst of the herd were hot-footin' it to the other
side of the pasture, Billy was able to see the bounding rumps of cows
on the horizon. He had another clue that they were cows. While he
certainly did have dew all over him, he could really tell by the odor
that the spot where he had landed had been recently vacated by a bunch
of scared cows on green grass.
And then there's poor old Chris Garber. The next morning when he
milked his cows he just couldn't understand. Normally turning cows out
on new pasture would improve milk production, but if anything his cows
were off this morning. And the worst one of all was old dependable