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 home.

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, Oh! 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 even more.

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 exactly.

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. >br>
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 Blackie.