And The Cow Jumped Over The Moon
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
SHE had been a pet before she came to us, we were told, and everything about her proved that it was true. She was a beautiful creature, part Jersey, part Holstein, cream-colored, with the dark head which is characteristic of Jersey cattle. Her horns had been removed, not because of any ill-temper on her part, but because she was a big, heavy cow, and it seemed wiser. We called her Queen Bess.
The first thing we learned about her was her daintiness. It was not enough for her to be cleaned in the casual way that ordinary cattle accept ; she had been well cared for, and she liked the feeling. So, no matter how carefully she had been curried before she went out to pasture, her first business was to lick herself all over, as far as she could reach, and manage her toilet with the same pains that a cat would use. Not until that had been finished would she begin to graze.
Now at the same time we had a cat with whom Bess soon struck up a great friendship. Beauty promptly decided that the cow was a personage to be treated with the utmost respect and regard, and put the information away for use at the proper time. We learned about it in a curious fashion.
When Beauty's five kittens had got their eyes well opened, and were able to walk about and climb out of their nest, one morning early, before the cow had been taken out to pasture, the cat brought the kittens out to the corridor through which Bess must pass. She ranged them in a row, washed their faces hastily for the last time, and told them to mind their manners, emphasizing this by a cuff for the one who was not paying attention.
In a few moments Bess was led out. When she reached the place where the kittens stood, she stopped, while Beauty evidently introduced her family. With grave politeness the cow lowered her head, licked each kitten, and then passed out. This was evidently a formal ceremony of great importance, and from then on the kittens were privileged to enter the cow's stall as freely as they pleased. On cold autumn nights they used to sleep beside her, as we discovered one morning when we found a kitten parading up and down her back, where he had been left when she got up after her night's rest. He did not dare to jump down, and was waiting for a rescuer.
As I said, Queen Bess was a large, heavy animal, and her sense of humor was very strong. It was her theory that every well conducted cow should assert her individuality once each season at least, and she spent much thought over the matter. She decided that in her particular case there were two possibilities, both excellent. One was offered by the railroad tracks that paralleled the fence on one side, conveniently out of sight, and the other came in connection with the orchard next door.
Accordingly, she nosed about the fence until she found a weak spot, and set out down the railroad track. She enjoyed her walk famously, met a woodchuck on her way, stopped to investigate a lily pond, and at last was met on her return by a deputation which included half the railroad employes for ten miles. Her dignity on this occasion was notable. This little expedition of hers she repeated with great regularity once every summer.
But variety is the spice of life, and this did not satisfy all her requirements. The orchard was more attractive. The question of getting over to it was one of the most pressing difficulties. Naturally, the fence had been repaired after her first escape, and she could not manage to break through it. However, this difficulty she solved to her own satisfaction, and one afternoon we found her, peacefully chewing the apples where she had no business to be. As it was near milking time, she was put in the stable, and we set out to examine the fence. We could find no hole anywhere.
The next day she repeated the performance. We decided that we must watch her. Now she was an observant cow, and when she saw the boys coming into the pasture, she settled down with a wicked wink, to spend the afternoon in plain sight. In disgust the boys examined the fence once more and came back to report.
"I believe she jumps," said the oldest. "There is a low place where she might possibly do it."
Accordingly, before she was let out the next day, he hid near the place where he thought she crossed, and waited for developments. At last they came. So long as she thought people were noticing her, Bess stood around, calm, sedate, utterly oblivious of the orchard. You would suppose she did not know of its existence. When nobody was about, she made her way to the grove at the far end of the pasture.
Now, the pasture covers a hilltop, of which one side slopes gently down to the house and barn, while the other falls sharply off to the railroad. A long path, the remains of a road that crossed the hill at the point where a deep cut had to be made for the tracks, leads to the lower end of the pasture. A turn to the right, through a low, damp place, brings one to the point where the fence was not as high as elsewhere, though still some four feet high.
At the foot of the path, where they could see both ways, the boys were concealed.
Queen Bess was certain that she was unobserved. And she was in a hurry. She galloped down the bank, dashed around the turn, up to the fence, and was over it, almost before the boys could believe their senses.
"How did she do it?" we cried, when they reported.
"Do it?" they answered. "Do it? She just wrapped her hind legs over her ears, gave one look at the fence, and was over."
At once they went to work to build up the fence. They buttressed it and bolstered it, and fortified it, and fastened it, and pulled it and piled it until it stood six feet high. Then they waited to see what would come next.
Queen Bess knew when she was beaten. She charged down the hill as usual, to get a start for her jump, and came up against the fence. She stopped just in time. Then she walked sedately up to the bank, and the boys swore that they saw her wink, as much as to say, "Well, I've had my fun out of it."
She had certainly demonstrated her qualities by the performance, and not the least by her behavior on the second time she got out. It happened that the older boy, who usually took care of her, was not at home at the time of her second promenade. Three or four of the farmers volunteered to get her.
As I said, she had a sense of humor. Now she wore no halter in the pasture, of course; so the men, after they had taken it from its peg in the barn, set out to put it on her. They had handled cows all their lives and they anticipated no trouble. They started out, and the littlest boy trotted after them as fast as he could go.
Queen Bess saw her chance. She knew that they were all wholesomely afraid of her size and weight, and she grinned a little. Then she put down her head a little, and shook it at them. Nothing more. The men stopped and consulted. She shook it again, and they retreated. They decided that it was not safe to touch her. Bess was enjoying the joke.
Just then the littlest boy pushed his way through the circle of men and rushed up to the cow. While they stared, he approached her, and they heard a tiny voice commanding, "You naughty cow, put down your head." To the chagrin of the farmers the "fierce" cow put down her head so the child could reach it, and allowed him to lead her home by the ear. To this day, the littlest boy insists that she winked at the farmers as she was led past them. As for them, they held their peace; but one of the wives, who saw the whole performance, could not resist telling it, and it was long before they heard the end of the joke.