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Thus, Bossy came to understand the
realities and tragedies of her life.
Bossy realized that she and the other cows were there to make milk for the farmer. Male cows gave no milk; neither did cows that failed to have a calf; and old cows began to give less and less milk. Though Bossy did not know her age, she knew for certain that eventually, her milk production would also lessen and eventually, the farmer would send her away on the truck. Was there nothing she could do about it? Was there no way to prevent her eventual trip to Who Knows Where?
It seemed hopeless. Still, Bossy was only a cow and could not stay depressed and worried constantly, especially since her day to day experience was so pleasant. But Bossy's thoughts turned to Who Knows Where far more often than any other cow in the herd.
Bossy's problem had a slow but inevitable effect on her. She began to pay closer attention to the details of her life, trying to understand everything about her. And as she developed a deeper understanding, she found herself inevitably drawn to taking responsibility for things around her. When other cows got irritated with each other and squabbled, Bossy was the one who went over and made them stop fussing. Bossy was the one who always realized first that it was approaching time for the farmer to come out to the pasture and lead them back to the barn for milking and so Bossy went first to the pasture gate to wait. And thus it was that Bossy became the boss cow who led the herd.
One beautiful spring day Bossy way lying near her favorite tree in the pasture, chewing her cud and enjoying the weather. There weren't many flies to annoy her yet. The grass had that wonderful rich flavor it gets in late spring, when it grows the fastest and makes cows feel brimming with energy. The air was cool, the sun warm, and the big old oak tree only slightly leaved out, allowing a dappling of warm light to reach the ground below.
I don't for certain know why it came to her on this particular day except to assign responsibility for the insight to her persistence at figuring about it, but that day in the pasture was to change her life and that of all the other cows. That was the day that Bossy had her big realization. What she suddenly understood was that if her purpose in being there was to make milk for the farmer, that if she was there expressly and solely to help the farmer, that if the farmer took care of them in exchange for that help, perhaps, if she could figure out some other way to be of service, the farmer might keep her when her milk production lessened, as it inevitably must. Not that she felt old or poorly mind you, especially not on that wonderful day with that wonderful rich spring grass in her stomach.
I hope you appreciate what a wondrous cognition this was for a cow to have. And Bossy was as properly excited about it as she should have been. Not that the idea solved her problem in and of itself, but the possibility of being able to find some other service to perform besides giving milk gave her new hope and she was happier than she had been in ages.
Bossy patiently set out to figure on this new insight. She watched everything, considered every aspect of her life, looking for some possible opening or opportunity to establish a new relationship with the farmer. It took her several years to reach the next step on this road, and it was a good thing she was an intelligent cow who could cogitate rapidly, for by the time she had figured her next move she was beginning to age and her milk production was dropping.
It was that point in the year's cycle when she was at her physical peak that Bossy made her move early in summer, after the grass had reached its peak and had begun to decline, when her milk's butterfat level was just beginning to drop and the butter the creamery was making was starting to lose its deepest yellow color and richest flavor. Her plan was very clever in its simplicity, effectively matching her limitations to her need.
As usual, the farmer came to the barn at dawn and milked all the cows. Then, he opened the stalls, starting with Bossy's. The cows were all eager to go to the pasture and enjoy the rich grass, so they all backed out of their stalls and ambled over to the barn door. As was his usual practice, the farmer put a halter around Bossy's neck, to lead her out to pasture, knowing that all the other cows would follow. As usual, Bossy placidly permitted this and when the farmer had secured the halter, he opened the barn doors and began to lead Bossy toward a narrow lane between two fenced corn fields which led to the pasture gate about a quarter mile away.
However, things did not go as usual. Right outside the barn door was a huge manure pile, smelling ripe with ammonia and buzzing with flies. Every few days the farmer would load this pile into his spreader and take it out to a field which was fallow. Today the pile was at its largest and ready for hauling. As the farmer walked by the pile, Bossy quick stepped up next to him and nuzzled his armpit, which was often her practice. The farmer stopped a moment to give her a scratch in her favorite spot right behind the left ear, but as he reached over Bossy's head, she gave him a vigorous shove with the side of her head and knocked him ass over teakettle right into the manure. The farmer was undamaged though out of wind for a few minutes and quite surprised at this very unusual behavior from a very well behaved and placid cow. Naturally the farmer lost hold of the short halter rope.
Bossy took advantage of her freedom to lead all the cows at double time, right where the farmer would have taken them anyway. By the time the farmer had collected himself, Bossy had trotted the herd to the pasture, and was standing guard just inside the open gate to prevent any cow from leaving not that any of them would have wanted to get away from all that fine green grass in any case. Just then, the farmer came panting up to the gate. He looked at Bossy somewhat warily, but Bossy merely eyed him placidly and mooed, turning her head in that special way she had when soliciting a scratch behind the ear. The farmer then came over and removed the halter, and locked the pasture gate.
By late afternoon, when it was time to bring the herd in, the farmer had forgotten that morning's adventure, assuming that whatever had gotten into Bossy was only temporary. He was not correct. Following his usual procedure, he entered the pasture, put the halter on Bossy, and led her to the gate. All the other cows followed. He then opened the gate and began to lead Bossy back to the barn. Again, she nuzzled him, and again she shoved--this time dumping him into the ditch. Speeding up, she trotted to the barn, and when all the cows were back inside, she stood at the barn door and wouldn't let them leave not that they wanted to anyway, because it was milking time and the herd needed to be relieved from the pressure in their udders.
The farmer came panting up and was very relieved to find that all the cows were in the barn, most of them already in their own stalls, with Bossy standing guard by the barn door. Without protest, Bossy permitted herself to be let to her stall, the halter was removed and milking proceeded as usual.
Next morning, the farmer was a little more cautious. He stood back after haltering Bossy and sure enough, she yanked the rope from his hand and proudly led the herd to pasture without his help, and stood guard at the pasture gate until he came to shut it. That afternoon it was the same. Within a few days, the farmer came to count on Bossy to perform her "trick" as he thought of it, and no longer bothered with the halter. In fact, he no longer had to rush out to shut the pasture gate, because he knew Bossy would guard the gate until he came to secure it. So the farmer began to enjoy a late cup of coffee with his wife before closing the pasture gate.
Thus, the farmer gained a new helper and Bossy gained a new lease on life.
As years went by, Bossy's milk output dropped and dropped. One year she failed to birth a calf and her milk dried up completely. But still the farmer did not call for the truck to take Bossy to go to Who Knows Where.
With increasing years came increasing experience. Bossy became the oldest cow not only on that farm but on any of the neighboring farms as well. Though cows on dairy farms tend to be rather isolated from other cows, there was occasional contact across the pasture fence from one farm to the next, and slowly the word of Bossy and her wisdom spread. Neighboring cows would make it point to speak to her over the fence about their problems and confusions. Though aging and slowing down, no cow in her own herd ever challenged Bossy's leadership because of the kindliness and compassion Bossy felt toward all her sisters. Age treated Bossy well and graced her with a shining light and caring that made the whole herd feel good just to be in her presence.
One day, things came to an end, as eventually, all good things must. It was fall. The grass was bland flavored and not very satisfying. The cows had to brush aside the leaves under the pasture trees to find the taller stalks. Soon there would be no more trips to pasture until spring came again.
On that fateful day, Bossy was feeling very strange. She was a bit dizzy and felt weak-legged, so she lay down under the big oak tree and did not browse for grass. Then, she lay on her side as though sleeping, then turned over on her back, put all four of her legs up into the air and moved no more.
Bossy stayed that way the rest of the afternoon, making absolutely no motion. None of the cows knew what was happening. They had never seen anything like this. They'd seen cows go off to Who Knows Where in the truck but never seen one simply stop moving and hold perfectly still, as though they had left their body. Finally, when afternoon milking time was long overdue and the cows had not returned from pasture, the farmer came rushing out and led the nervous herd back to the barn. He seemed a little saddened.
Next morning, the farmer came to the barn, selected the biggest young cow in the herd, tied his halter around her neck and led her to pasture. Out of habit, the rest of the herd followed. When they got there, they remembered Bossy and trotted over to where she had lay on her back the day before, but Bossy no longer lay under the tree. Where had she gone?
Had the truck come unbeknownst to them? Had Bossy done something else unusual? Her wisdom, understanding and kindness were legendary. Talking amongst themselves, they decided that Bossy must have attained an unusual state and simply disappeared herself. The herd had come to admire Bossy and depend on her help with their lives and personal problems. They missed her and wished to replace her and wanted to become like her themselves. And they too worried about Who Knows Where.
The other cows did not know what to do to become more like Bossy. But they remembered the quiet, unusually placid and patient way she had, and tried to imitate that themselves. They remembered the heartfelt concern that Bossy developed as age and experience increased her wisdom, and tried to copy her personality, as best they could understand it. And especially, they remembered the unusual thing Bossy did on her last day at the farm.
So the other cows began to practice rolling over on their backs and putting their feet in the air without moving. This was a very difficult trick, and one that none of them could achieve for very long without being stung intolerably by a fly and having to swish their tail, or losing their balance, or becoming distracted and forgetting what they were attempting. But they kept trying, because the cows were convinced that if they could only roll over, put up all four feet and hold still for long enough, that this exercise would cause them to attain a state of being like Bossy, and like her, they themselves might then not be taken away to Who Knows Where by the truck.
From that day to this, much to the mystification of people, the cows in that part of Wisconsin roll over on their backs and play "dead," especially when the weather is fine and a breeze blows the flies away. And the cows from that part of the state also have a reputation for being particularly gentle and better natured than cows from anywhere else.
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