The Hazards of Life in the Country

>> Friday, May 21, 2010

I grew up in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  No, I did not grow up on a farm.  We lived in an ordinary suburb in a house that was only as old as I was.  I did, however, live across the way from a horse farm, and the vacant lot next door was fertilzed by the leavin's from that there horse farm, if you smell what I mean.

Down the end of our street, the housing development stopped rather abruptly, leading out into the great wide open farmland that you can see on all the postcards.  We bought most of our fresh vegetables from the Plain farm down that street.  Beyond them was ... not much -- a lot of winding, twisty roads with very few street signs.  Like much of the "back roads" of the County, those road signs were turned 90 degrees or removed by the local kids "for fun." 

Of course, these days were before the GPS era, and the word to the wise was, "Don't go driving on those roads unless you know where you are going."  A body could get lost for hours trying to find their way back to a main road ... or a house that believed in using electricity.  And a bathroom?  Forget it. 

If you knew where you were going, however, precisely, and without needing to see road signs, those so-called "back roads" could save you a lot of time, especially in the summer when the tourists clogged all the main roads gawking at the horses and buggies.  Most of the time you would easily be the only car on the road, and if not the only, then one of a very few, especially on the unmarked roads.  A hawk's eye out for people walking, horses and buggies, and bicycles was a very good idea.  Occasionally, a few other moving beasts were back there, too.

I worked at a restaurant at the other end of town, so I knew half a dozen ways to get back home.  Many of them were so rural that my mother made me promise to go the same way every night if I was coming home after 10 PM so she'd know which way to come looking for me if I never came home.  One night, on my way home from a late shift at work, I met one of these "beasts" of the back road.

I was driving down this windy, dark road that had fences on either side to keep the local livestock contained.  The fence line was several feet back from the road, and parts of it (at least) were made of wire.  As I traveled, I thought I saw a dog in the distance, near the fence.  As I got closer, I thought, "man that is a big dog."  As I got even closer, the animal starting running, first towards my car.  At that point, I realized that this was no dog, and if it was, it was the biggest dog ever made by man or spirit in this universe.  Just as I thought it was about to plow into the side of my car, it turned right and started running along side of me.  It was drag racing me!  I was in a rural drag race with a ... a what? 

A cow.  Possibly a bull.  It was too dark to see.  It was bovine, and it was big, and I was country girl enough to know two things:  (1) If it hits me, it will win.  It is stronger and heavier than my car.  (2)  If it hits me, I will lose, because that cow is almost certainly worth more than this car.  I swerved my car into the other "lane". (I say that in quotes because most city folk wouldn't consider that a two lane road, although much of Scotland would call it a three-lane road.)  The cow kept running, drag-race style.  If it got in front of me, one of us was in big trouble, probably me.  I don't know if my auto-insurance covered cattle loss, or "death by stampeding cattle," for that matter.

Thankfully, it veered right when I veered left, and I had the chance to speed on without it, leaving it galloping alongside the road. 

After I caught my breath, I got to thinking about the next poor vehicle coming down that road.  What if they weren't so lucky?  Think of all that beef and moo juice that would go to waste!  Think of all the damage to that car!  What if they closed my little shortcut and all my restaurant buddies got stuck?  (I was a very conscientious college-aged kid, you know.)

So, like any super-squeaky clean kid, I drove the rest of the way home and called the police.

Yes, I called the police.  My name went on record in the local police station as reporting a ... a ... runaway cow.

The call went something like this:

"Hello, East Lampeter Township police, how can I help you?"

"Hi.  I'm calling to report a loose cow on ____ road?"

"A what?"

"A loose cow.  It got past the fence line, and it's on the road.  It almost ran into me when I drove past."

"Which part of the road were you on?  That road cuts across the township line."

"I was on the part between Route 30 and Old Philadelphia Pike."

"Uh.  Shoot.  That's us.  Are you sure it was a cow?"

"Well, it was big, and heavy -- too fat to be a horse, and to big to be a dog."

"Did you see any markings?"

"Big and brown.  That's it."

(They had a few more questions to try to be sure I wasn't some prank caller -- like, what were you doing on that road this time of night? -- , and they made me give my name and phone number for good measure.)

The Operator turns away from the phone and talks to someone beside her, "Hey. We got another loose cow tonight.  I'm getting the directions now. One of yous is gonna have to go wrangle it in and find the owner."

Yep. That's where I grew up.  They totally believe the possibility of a drag racing cow.  I think their only concern was whether some band of drunk teenagers was off chasing the cows.

Yee haw.


Dazee Dreamer May 21, 2010 at 9:48 AM  

That was so good, I saw it all in my mind while I was reading. Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous May 21, 2010 at 3:53 PM  

Hahahaha! Great story telling! Reminds me of many of my dad's tales of his youth..things that just cannot happen in the city or in this era.
Thanks for sharing the chuckles!
(One of those things that's scary or 'not funny' at the time, but hilarious in retrospect!)

...Lizzy (@DzyMsLizzy)

saywhatyouwill May 24, 2010 at 4:05 PM  

v. funny!!!!!!!!!!!! what on earth made you recall it, though? :)

Karin Kysilka May 24, 2010 at 4:15 PM  

I'm chuckling because you are all so amused about my drag racing a cow.

saywhatyouwill, I wrote this one because my Darling Husband has been bugging me to right about our encounter with another animal (in the next post) and ... well ... this one had to come first.

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