Schmidthaus Writing


A pastoral tale

Gerald was not the brightest cow in the herd. Everyone told him so, and he was sure they were right. He never behaved properly for a cow and always seemed to do the wrong things.

Just last week he noticed a fallen limb had knocked a hole in the fence. He'd never been past the fence, so he thought he would go for a look at what might be there. He went over a hill and down the other side. He followed a creek for a little while, watching the water move in and out of the reeds and rocks as he took a cool drink. Soon he came to a road. He looked each direction carefully, turned and walked up the road. The road was uncomfortable under his hooves, not soft like the pasture grasses. He paused now and again to nibble at the grass along the side of the road and to rest. There was no hurry.

Twice, great noisy machines roared along the road. The first simply went past quickly on the other side of the road, honking as it passed. "Stupid cow!" shouted the driver. Gerald knew the voice was right. No other cows were here, so he was stupid to be here alone. What would he do if a predator came along?

The second machine pulled up behind him. Gerald recognized it as the machine Farmer calling the "GodamdworthlesTruck". Its growl was irregular, and it coughed a lot. Gerald was sure it would be left to rust somewhere before long. It slowed near Gerald and honked at him. Gerald stopped to look at it. He studied the way the sunlight highlighted the few places where the chrome still shone, and the contrast with the spreading rust spots where the paint was gone.

The truck stopped, and Junior got out. Junior was Farmer's eldest offspring. "Dumb cow," Junior greeted Gerald, "What the heck are you doing out here?" Gerald mooed once, explaining the hole in the fence and telling of his nice walk along the creek. As he expected, Junior did not understand. Junior windmilled his arms and shouted "Hyah, move cow." Gerald hoped he knew the right way to go, and turned to head the direction suggested by Junior. Not far up the road was the Gate. Gerald had seen it a few times, and knew it was a place the fence could be broken and repair quickly. Junior broke the fence for him, and Gerald thanked him as he stepped back onto the pasture. Junior slammed the Gate shut. Gerald started across the pasture for the main herd.

As Gerald approached the herd, he saw the herd's awareness of him spread as one cow saw him, glanced to Herdbull, and then turned its back to Gerald. Another noticed him, and another, then a great wave moved through the herd as they all turned away. A path to Herdbull cleared. This was a familiar sight to Gerald, who seemed to spend a lot of time on Herdbull's bad side.

Herdbull did not acknowledge Gerald's arrival. Gerald waited, nipping a few bites of grass. He had almost forgotten why he was there when Herdbull spoke. "You are quite a distraction. What am I to do with you?"

Gerald thought a moment. "Nothing, Sir. I harm no one."

"Truly? Is not discipline harmed when it is not maintained? Can you see that your lack of attention to the traditions of the herd weakens those traditions, whether you mean it to or not? We are important creatures with important things to do. Farmer counts on us to trim his pastures to keep the grass under control. Without us he would have to rely on his noisy machines. We know Farmer favors us because he speaks to us more kindly than to his machines, but we must be efficient and obedient or we will be replaced."

Gerald looked past Herdbull at the other cows. Each was very carefully not paying attention to what was going on. Herdbull always had much to say when Gerald was in trouble, Gerald just wished he were smart enough to understand it. Herdbull cleared his throat.

"As I was saying, the machines which fail Farmer go to odd corners of the Farm to sit and rust. Do you see old cows sitting in the corners of the Farm, gathering dust and rusting? Surely this is a sign to you that Farmer cares for us more than the machines? Do you want to be the first cow left to rust into the ground?"

Gerald realized he was expected to respond, but no thought of what an appropriate response might be came to him except, "No, Sir."

"Good. Then you should do your duty to Farmer as the rest of us do. We eat the grass. Farmer protects us from predators and, if we are good, takes us to a better place."

Gerald interrupted, "Have you seen a predator?" with a tone of honest curiosity. There was a stir in the herd at his impudence. Gerald meant no disrespect, he simply seemed to question things that every cow accepted.

"Of course not!" snapped Herdbull, "Farmer protects us from them. I swear, Gerald, you are so stupid. I am starting to doubt Farmer will ever take you to Auction."

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