TOWN COWS WERE BIG TROUBLE

By Norris Chambers

             The year I as in the seventh grade I stayed with my sister who taught in the townís school. I use the term town very loosely since there wasnít much of a town there. The total population at that time might have been about seventy five. There was a time, during the oil boom of the late twenties, when the population was estimated to be as high as seven or eight hundred. The little town was on a dry hill and the only water supply was cisterns or the muddy tanks below the hill. Of course there were no sanitary facilities or garbage services. There was no town government and the only similarity to law and order was the precinct constable. I went back to my home about six miles in ther country on the week end. There was no school bus service to the area where we lived.

            A large number of the families living in the town had one or two cows to provide milk and butter for the family. There was usually a small shed where the cowís food was kept and an adjoining lot where she was confined at night. During the day the cow was allowed to roam over the town and adjoining country. There was grass along the roadway and alleys that provided considerable nourishment.

            Of course we had a nice Jersey cow and the old house had a nice cow shed and lot. We called the cow Old Jersey. That was not a very original name, but it served the purpose. It was my job to milk and feed her morning and night.  The morning milking was not much trouble but in the afternoon I had no idea where to find old Jersey .

            The town cows formed little groups and ranged up and down the four roads leading into the little village. The herds might be as far away as a mile or two and you never knew which road to check first. It was my job to start finding our cow as soon as school was dismissed. I was not the only cow hunter. It was generally agreed that we would go in different directions and drive all the cows to town that we found on our road.

This system worked well most of the time. Sometimes a party of hunters found their cows and brought the group back but there were others farther away that they didnít see. This made the hunt very difficult for those seeking the far-ranging herd.  Many times Old Jersey was a far-ranger!

            We performed detective work by asking drivers who came into town if they had seen cattle on the way in. Some of the country men complained about the cattle blocking the road and refusing to move. They ignored the automobile horns and sometimes had to be nudged aside with the carís bumper. Sometimes the fences along the roads were not in the best of repair and the cattle managed to break into fields and gardens. There they did considerable damage and disturbed the farmers even more. They were also hard to retrieve when they were in a field or pasture adjoining the road. They could always find a place to get in but just couldnít find a way out.

            The herd also caused some problems in town. My brother had a service station and garage on the edge of the hill. As a courtesy for his customers he had a water barrel and a bucket in front of the station where they could fill their radiators. He had to haul the water from a tank to fill the barrel and he resented the cattle drinking it. Of course a cow must drink lots of water to give milk. The closest water for the cattle was about a half mile from town where a small stream crossed the road and the graded dip provided a small pool as a watering trough. A small group of cows could almost empty the barrel if they came by when he was busy in the back of the shop.

            A Model T Ford coil was called on to solve the problem. The barrel was placed on an old automobile tire to insulate it from the ground and a coil was installed inside the tire under the barrel. A small cord ran into the shop where a simple push on the switch sent several thousand volts of electricity into the barrel and through any thirsty cow that might be drinking at the moment. The surprised cow would jump back and sometimes bellow like a fresh branded steer. Usually a second shot was not necessary and the surprised victim headed for the ditch to quench her thirst.

            One afternoon about the time school dismissed and the town was the busiest a large spotted cow wandered over to the station for a drink. At this time one of my brotherís smaller boys was watching the switch and waiting for just such an occasion. He saw the cow and waited in eager anticipation for the right moment to push the switch.

            What he didnít see was Mrs. Duncan walking behind the cow on her way to the post office. He pushed the button just as the animalís lips touched the water. The cow bellowed and jumped back from the barrel. Mrs. Duncan was caught completely by surprise and the startled cow knocked her down and stepped on her before running off down the street.

            Luckily, a man on the other side of the street saw the mishap and hurried over to see if she was injured. There was no serious damage and the lady continued on her journey to the post office. I donít know if she ever found out why the cow jumped back and knocked her down. Maybe she thought it was just a mean cow. Those who knew did a little secret laughing.

            I still have to chuckle a little when I think about it.

            What a warped sense of humor! But we should always look for a little fun in everything Ė especially if it is someone else that gets run over by a town cow!