Monday, June 21, 2010

Pied Piper of . . . Cows?

You never know when the most commonplace things will go wonky on you.

This last week I went to a reunion of my husband's family. It was held in a beautiful lodge just outside Yellowstone Park, in a cabiny area surrounded by pastureland and a barbed-wire fence. I was asked to bring my pipes as we were also celebrating my parents-in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary, along with a couple of birthdays. After the first day--our Day in the Park where it snowed all day--the weather was beautiful, so I took my pipes for a little walk to a remote-er part of the area to get a bit of practice in.

I found a wooded corner of the area. Across the barbed-wire fence was a typically huge pasture with about 200 head of black cows scattered over it, about 4 cows per acre, standing around individually chewing their cud, as cows are wont to do. I'm no expert on cow breeds. All I can tell you is that they were pitch black and rather large. Cows are pretty commonplace in Idaho, and I am not generally afraid of them. They don't DO anything. So I paid them no attention and got down to work

As per instructions, I plugged my drones and started getting my chanter in tune, with the tuner balanced on a dead log. Naturally this dead log had me facing away from the pasture. As I ran through an practice tune, in some distant part of my mind were the bird songs, the wind, the sunshine, the gentle lowing of the cows . . . It was a really beautiful day. Perfect for sending some slow aires or marches winging over the countryside.

As the tune came to an end, I noticed that the general tone of cow noise had gone from Calm to Anxious and Upset. Slowly, I turned around.

Making a bee-line (if the cows will pardon the expression) towards me at a trot were about two-thirds of the cows in that pasture! They were all maw-ing anxiously, twitching their ears and stomping and staring at me as if I had done something terribly wrong--broken the Cattle Code, perhaps, or pretended to be Chased By Wolves or something. They lined up in a Black Cow Mass about 20 feet away, but kept inching forward.

I suddenly realized that the only thing separating me from their hundreds of sharp hooves and horns were 4 tiny strands of wire.

More cows continued to arrive, nudging the previous ones forward.

I slowly picked up my pipe case and started moving away from them. No fast moves. You never know what a herd of Emotionally Unbalanced Cows will do. I achieved the dirt road and stood staring at them. What the heck had I done? Was the farmer/rancher also a piper from the Henry's Fork Pipe Band who used his piping to call them in to dinner? Were they looking for hay, and were they now Upset that I Hadn't Given Them Any?

Now that almost 100 yards separated us and an unused cabin porch was handy, I was a bit braver. "What is your problem?" I asked, rather loudly.

In answer, they turned tail and galloped straight away. I would almost say 'stampeded'.

I wonder what frame of mind they were in when they went in for dinner that night. Did I play the Visiting Uncle and get them All Riled Up before bed?

You never can tell with cows.

You never can tell with piping.

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