The Old Timers and the Cow’s Tail!

By Norris Chambers

             I don’t think Clifton and I were ever referred to as “those awful boys”, “mean brats” or anything as degrading. We were never as nice as angels but I don’t believe we were known as trouble-makers in the community...

            Cal Hawkins and his wife lived in the outskirts of a small town. They had a nice little cottage and two or three acres of rugged land in the rear. They had a smoke house, two storage buildings, a shed that had at one time housed a buggy but now protected a well groomed Model T, a windmill with a tank on a tower and a beautiful Jersey milk cow.

            Mr. Hawkins was a nice man but he didn’t care for kids. When we passed his house on our journey to the school he glared at us and caused us to feel very uncomfortable. Some of the other boys at school said that he called them bad names and accused them of things they didn’t do. He even threatened to skin them alive or tan their hides. Two of the meaner boys had broken a window in the house with a slingshot. Someone else had hung a sign on the front yard fence that read “OLD MAN GROUCH”.

            Mr. Hawkins’ milk cow wore a large bell hanging from for neck. This probably wasn’t necessary since she stayed with the town cow herd and they never strayed very far from town. There had probably been a time when the bell was helpful in locating her and he just hadn’t thought about it now being unnecessary.

            Clifton and I were loafing behind my brother’s service station and garage when we heard the clanging of the bell. Soon the herd of at least a dozen cows walked into the area where we were seated. Clifton suggested that we move the bell from the neck to the tail and see how well it would work. That sounded like a good thing to do. I walked gently beside the cow and began removing the leather strap that held the bell. Clifton was inside looking for some strong twine.

When he came back with the string I had removed the bell and buckled the strap back around the cow’s neck. We tied the bell to the tail with the strong fishing cord. Clifton yelled “Boo” and began waving his arms wildly and jumping around like a scared grass hopper. The herd started running toward the post office with the bell clanging with every jump the cow made. This scared the other cows and they ran wildly down the main street with the bell clanging loudly.

            Most of the town thought it was funny but Mrs. Brady was upset because the stampede took a shortcut through her back yard and devastated a line full of freshly washed clothes.

            We heard that Mr. Hawkins didn’t think it was funny for a milk cow to have a bell attached to her tail. He reattached it to her neck.

            I don’t know if someone told him that Clifton and I were responsible for moving the bell from his cow’s neck to the tail but on the day after the incident he stopped us on our way to school and asked if we put the bell on his cow’s tail. I told him that we did it and that we were sorry if it caused any damage. Clifton told him that we didn’t mean to cause any trouble and that we just thought it would be a fun thing to do. The old man actually grinned.

            “It was quite amusing,” he said. “It might have been funny if last night when I began milking old Daisy she had swished her tail and the bell had hit my left ear!”  He laughed heartily and continued, “I heard that the cows ran through Mrs. Brady’s yard and knocked her freshly washed clothes off of the line.”

             “That’s right,” Clifton answered, daring to laugh out loud. “If she finds out who was responsible she may be mad at us.” Mr. Hawkins laughed again. We were shocked and surprised to see him in such amiable mood. We had expected to be severely lectured, or worse.

            “Don’t worry about it. She’ll soon forget it or see the humor in it, like I did!”  Clifton thanked him for being so nice and told him we would not bother his cow any more. He grinned again and said, “One more thing, I have wrapped up a little gift for you boys. For the best effect open it in the dark then shine a light on it.” Clifton took it and thanked him again for being so nice and for the gift.

            We followed his instructions closely and didn’t open the package until it was dark .We retired to the smoke house and closed the door to make it darker. I held a flashlight to shine on it when Clifton opened it and stood by for the surprise. I heard the paper concealing the gift tearing as he prepared to display it and I pointed my flashlight for a quick look.

            Suddenly Clifton yelled and began using some bad words. I turned on my light to see what the problem was. The box lay open on the floor with a large wasp nest half inside it. A large swarm of angry wasps were buzzing around, most of them on and around Clifton. He opened the door and ran outside. I was close behind him. “Two of them stung me!” he complained. I was unharmed.

            The next time we passed Mr. Hawkins house he was leaning on the fence staring at us. He was grinning like a pleased ‘possum. I grinned back at him. Clifton didn’t grin!