The first discovery made on their foray into the countryside was that of electric fencing.
“What the–!” hollered Sean when his fingers felt as if he’d stuck them in a bee’s nest. Jamie laughed at his new roommate while gingerly stepping over the wire.
Freshmen at Shepherd University which was located along the upper reaches of the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Sean and Jamie found their new surroundings to be rather unfamiliar. Shepherdstown had no mall, no movie theater, and no subway to take them to King’s Pizza in the town’s one shopping center, out where the Food Lion sat. Beyond the edges of the town all of which could easily be reached by walking, there were plenty of soybeans, corn, and cows. The new roommates decided one September night that, with few other options available, they would seek an avenue of entertainment that they had heard about, but did not exist in their home communities: They were going cow-tipping.
Standing now in a field with darkness falling fast in the early autumn dusk, they scanned the horizon.
“Let’s walk towards that white boulder on that little hill and see if we can find some cows.”
Sauntering through the gloaming, the boys got within ten feet of the “boulder” when it suddenly bellowed and swished its tail.
Jamie landed safely back in his shoes and after swallowing hard, Sean’s heart returned to the regular place in his chest.
“That’s weird. Somebody must have tipped this cow over already.”
The bellowing bovine boulder, had set off a series of bellows and moos from the hollow off to the right and the boys made their way to a herd of totally untipped cows.
“All right!! Let’s tip ‘em all over!”
“That’ll be hilarious! Take some video of me tipping this one and we’ll put it on YouTube!”
These Holsteins, being dairy cattle, were used to humans and thought nothing of two members of the species integrating their herd. Being cattle in general, they really didn’t think about too much at all. Being rather unsophisticated, they knew nothing of YouTube.
Sean approached a heifer at the edge of the herd. They stared dully at each other.
“Which end of this thing is the best one to push?”
“Try pushing in the middle.”
At this point, the second discovery of the night was made, and it had more to do with physics than with animal science. When 800 pounds is evenly distributed across four points of contact, that 800 pound mass is difficult to set in motion. Unless, of course, that mass has a mind of its own and resents, as any lady would, a strange pair of hands on her waist. The heifer made a start and trotted away from Sean. This created a general round of trotting and harrumphing among the herd.
“I think you’re doing it wrong. Let me try.”
Jamie approached a large cow and pushed on its hind flank. The cow, older and more experienced in these matters than the young heifer, looked back at this rather large fly and did what any cow does with a fly, giving it a mighty swat with her tail.
The fly in the Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie buzzed off.
“Try the other end.”
The suggestion proved no help.
Jamie, now a bit more selective, picked out the smallest animal in the bunch and pushed on her front haunches. This 650 pound future milk machine never moved. Sean joined the effort, thus doubling their cow-tipping force, but they only succeeded in pushing this heifer around in a circle and so they ended up where they started. The heifer appeared amused.
The boys went off to contemplate the situation under a nearby clump of trees. The first cow that they had attempted to tip followed them, and in an almost mocking gesture, lowered itself to the ground all by itself and closed its eyes. (Cows, of course, are more gracious than humans in that way, for they do not, in fact, mock. Nor do they go around trying to tip over a random person innocently standing at a bus stop say, or coming out of the grocery store.)
The boys gave up.
Sean and Jamie returned to Shepherd’s campus having made their third discovery of the evening, which was not that cows were untippable, although that had become obvious. They had discovered that something they had always held to be true was not necessarily true. And so in one night, a herd of cows taught these two boys the most valuable lesson that they would ever learn in college.