Farm To Farm
by Spec MacQuayde, March 3, 2010
Sunday afternoon was another perfect day for possibly accomplishing something, but I spent most of the afternoon mentally and physically preparing for a trial run for our farm's upcoming Variety Show act. Scores of people were involved. It was going to be the biggest thing since the launching of the Apollo. We had engineers, architects, sound technicians, a horse trailer, and a cow named “Lula.”
The whole thing had started innocently enough a month ago when I'd run this idea past Captain Rainbow where we'd assemble the crew of Gilligan's Island and have them marooned in Boonville. He considered the idea briefly, but a few details had fizzled. Then I accidentally heard about how Robin Specter had ridden a horse on stage several years back, and a light bulb inadvertently illuminated. “We could milk a cow on stage,” I'd said.
Rainbow has always been on the hunt for live animal acts, and his eyes got wide. “You're serious? You're aware this is a big deal. What if she gets loose?”
“Aw, the cow I'm thinking of is so tame I don't even have to tie her up to pull a calf out.”
“You're not going to do THAT.”
“No. We could bring her on stage, I could milk her.”
The idea caught like redwood kindling that's been drying in a barn loft for decades. Before long there were people showing up at the farm, offering help for the act. I decided to go along with it all. I mean the cow in question, Lula, is like an extension of my own body. She knows her name, comes when I call her. If for some reason her heels are dug in the mud I can walk up and slap her on the ass — she has leather for skin, and she will literally move in direct response to my commands. I never met a more submissive creature in my life. She's also gorgeous, and at the farm we have families with kids and strange dogs showing up and barging into the milking stall routinely, barking and bickering. Lula is the cow who never even raises an eyebrow. She’s a modern day Elsie.
So I constructed a portable milking stall out of redwood 2x6’s that was admittedly a little damp to say the least, if not saturated. The thing weighed hundreds of pounds, was eight feet long, three feet wide, and four feet tall. I didn't want to take any chances with an animal that weighs in the neighborhood of 1300 pounds. It took a little calculus and some serious maneuvering, not to mention dozens of hands, to coax the milking stall up the ramp they built over the stairs.
Meanwhile, Robin Specter had driven to the farm in the horse trailer borrowed from Regina Schwenter. We loaded Lula in the trailer with no trouble, as she is such an easy cow to work with. That was where the lack of trouble ended, though. First my dogs followed us down Lambert Lane, barking at the trailer. We hadn't let them in the cab of the truck because Robin's dog was in there and my blue heeler bitch really is a bitch. The dogs were barking not only at the trailer but at the cow who was no doubt shitting bricks. Fortunately my 12 year-old son showed up with his pup and escorted the dogs back to the farm before we got to Highway 128.
A crowd was awaiting the cow's arrival at the Grange. You'd have thought that John Lennon had been resurrected and was getting ready to step off the private jet. She was a rock star. She was rocking the trailer, anyway.
Video cameras were pointed in at her, and folks were climbing up on the step sides to have a gander.
“She's kind of agitated from the ride,” I said. “Let's let her calm down some.” I expected her to be a little riled from the road trip, and had purchased a quart of molasses. I dipped carrots in the molasses and fed them to her, saying her name in a calm voice, pretending like I knew what I was doing. I knew I was feeding her carrots dipped in molasses, anyway. Her eyes were big, but weren't they always big? She was a little nervous. I'd seen her nervous before.
Captain Rainbow was visibly apprehensive, but then he always looks like that as the Variety Show approaches, so nobody paid much attention to his calls for caution. “I don't know if I want to unleash that beast,” he said.
But so many people had put so much time into the preparations, and we were all game for a go of it. “Might as well try,” we said. Carefully, we opened the door to the back of the horse trailer. I hadn't managed to pry it back more than an inch before an explosive hammer slammed the door and me unfortunately into Robin. Both of us hit the gravel and mud. The cow had only one way to go. She bounded up the ramp that had been so carefully constructed with the plywood strips for her hooves to grip, and when she hit the front of the milking stall she didn't stop. Front-heavy, it sent its eight foot panels upright like the legs of a capsized dragon, and Lula didn't miss a beat, bounding off like a grunge rocker stage-diving in the Grange. It was a good thing they hadn't set up chairs on the floor. She skidded, I guess.
I didn't see that part, so it's only what I heard later. Evidently she kicked and slid and bucked on the wooden floor, bellowing and frothing. Inexperienced with rowdy cows, the crew dragged me from my nearly crippled sprawl and locked the doors. “We have to get her out of here.”
I said what the hell, this is all my fault and tried following Lula around on the slick dance floor turned rodeo, with no luck. Lula kept sliding like a 1300 pound child on ice skates for the first time, and it was painful chaos until Mike Crutcher punched in this sound effect file with hundreds of cows mooing. It hit the PA system, and Lula stopped in her tracks, looking around, dazed and confused. Limping somewhat, I was able to regain a smidgin of dignity and lead her through the EXIT door beside the stage, back into the horse trailer. Needless to say, you won't be seeing Lula the milk cow at the Variety Show this year unless somebody comes up with the video of her escapades.