Mad Cow Disease

Earlier this month I visited the Hampshire College campus in Massachusetts.  I was there to spend a few days with my daughter Bea…

…who was studying at the amazing Yiddish Book Center at the college.

Hampshire has a lovely campus in the middle of rural farm country.  And it was 97 degrees.

I’m from The Emerald City and I know green when I see it.  Believe me, that countryside was green.

It was midday, and the campus was deserted, except for mad dogs and Englishmen.  Oh, yeah, and Bea and me.  We were walking to the dorm to sit in front of the AC and have lunch (did I mention it was 97 degrees?).  Then out of nowhere came a couple of dairy cows, fresh off the farm, looking like two giant Oreo cookies on the hoof.  Completely out of context, they looked larger than life.

One doesn’t often see cows going faster than a mosey, but these two came galloping toward us–no, frolicking is the only word for it.  They came frolicking across the manicured lawn.

They seemed giddy with the sense of freedom.   No cattle lows here.  In fact, I could almost hear one calling to her girlfriend, “Woo hoo!  C’mon,c’mon,c’mon, come ON!!

Oh, they were fresh, and they were frisky!  Across the campus they bounced, udders swaying, heads bobbing.  Like young girls taking the bus downtown for the first time.  Or mothers in a frenzy of activity when Baby goes down for a nap.  Grownup sisters on their first overnight after the kids are weaned.  Old ladies and their girl herd down at the senior center on Bingo Night.

A student heading out to the parking lot saw them.  Before ducking into the safety of her car, she shouted, “Get inside!  Mad cows on the loose!”  But Bea and I weren’t afraid.  If this was Mad Cow Disease, we wanted to catch it.  I swear, those cows were laughing and shoulder bumping!

They were on their first jump over the moon.  New sights, new smells, new tastes.  Maybe the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence.  How would they ever know if they didn’t give it a try?

You’re going to stick your head into a garbage can?  Then I’m going to stick my head into a garbage can too!”  Thelma and Louise on the hoof!

Out from under Farmer Brown’s thumb!  You go, girls!

I knew then and there, I would never wait for someone to open the gate of the corral.  If it’s locked, I’ll jimmy it.

Whether your middle name is Hamburger Helper or you’re just tethered to a milking machine, life is short.  You can put in your time on the farm, but if you wait patiently for someone to put you out to pasture, chances are it ain’t gonna happen.

It’s up to you to kick up your heels while you still can.

You hear what I’m saying?   Get Moooving!

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Pairs.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Farm Animals.

Click here for more interpretations of Nancy Merrill’s A Photo-a-Week Challenge: Green.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh.


    1. Hi Jamie,
      I have had occasion to observe cows lose at hand, and I discovered that they really have a LOT of personality. One of these days, I’ll tell that story. But this little incident was just reinforcement for my theory. I have a deep appreciation for cows–especially the ones who stick their necks out of the fence for a taste of the grass on the other side. And I was totally charmed by these wild and crazy gal pals out on the town.

  1. Wonderful post, Naomi! So fresh and funny 🙂 I love that you can find a great story even in the most odd, random events. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Dear Kathy,
      So good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by. I hope your revision is going well. Can’t wait to hear about it! I am really looking forward to seeing you at the conference.

  2. Naomi, I wish I had known! We live right here in the Valley, in Northampton, not 10 minutes away!
    Could have offered you some A/C and iced tea, although none of the belted Herefords! If Bea ever comes back to the Yiddish Book Center — we’d love to pick her up for something home cooked —

    1. Wow! You are so kind! She was interning in their summer program, and loved the area. It is so beautiful, and so HOT! Not quite as hot as Texas was the week before, but hot as blazes to a pale and wimpy Northwesterner. If she ever comes back, and she is interested in another program there, I hope it will be in the autumn, because I know the colors are spectacular. Thanks again for your very generous offer. I would have loved to have met with you!

  3. I laughed the whole way through and now since you were here you can bare(sp) witness to how really really green it is.

    I love the wild cows on the run bout time they kicked up their hoofs and had a grand old time before that mad farmer caught them 🙂

    Another great post!

      1. LOL No problem I used to have a lot of followers before I lost my reader not sure how many will see it but I knew it was more than worthy of being shared 🙂

  4. What fun – and what an important message. Time goes by so fast and there is so much wonder in all that we do. I am finding that the greatest joy comes from the simplest daily activities. And the extraordinary experiences are just extensions of and the sum totals of our simplest experiences of sense. But it requires awareness. Thanks for being aware; of your daughter, of the personality of cows, of green.

  5. I don’t know what made me smile more: the visual antics of the cows (really, it’s as if they knew they were being photographed and were playing up to the camera!), or your whimsical way of reminding us to sieze every moment 🙂

    Terrific 🙂

    1. Dear Meredith,
      I wish you could have been there. It was so unexpected–those two cows were gamboling like lambs. I really appreciate your very kind response.

  6. You’re right about cows being playful! When my husband and I used to do long-distance bike riding (bicycles, not motorcycles), one of our favorite paths had cows that would run along, kicking and frolicking. It freaked out my city boy. After a while, we stopped taking that path because he hated it so much.


    1. Hi Nancy,
      That is such a funny story! Where did you do your biking?
      Cows are playful and curious, and I think curiosity is a sign of intelligence. When I had a flat tire while biking down the Oregon Coast, I pulled into a fenced enclosure jutting into a pasture. It was just big enough for a pickup truck, and certainly big enough for me to change the tire. When I was done I looked up and found myself surrounded on three sides by cows, all just chewing their cuds and watching the show with their big brown eyes. It was really kind of funny and sweet at the same time.
      Thanks for the visit.

  7. Oh, those two were obviously sisters. Tomorrow they will be snipping at each other, but on this day, they can have fun like nobody’s business!

  8. VERY cute!! Great encouragement, and the similes (?) for the cows’ behavior were perfect, my head is filled with images, (teens to seniors), not just the photos! Will I see you at PowellsWood Festival next weekend? Judith

  9. The cows certainly seemed to be enjoying their new found freedom.. even if just for a short time before someone discovered they had escaped… would we not all frolic around on new fields of dreams if let out of a old boring spot.?? I think we would, and you captured it well on camera… brought a smile to my face so early in the morning…

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have known a few people who have every means available to them–money and time and they still had no desire to stray beyond their own very small comfort zone. That’s okay for them, and I respect their choices, but I’m always ready to get while the gettin’ is good!

  10. What a lovely, fun post and I truly enjoyed seeing your beautiful daughter and the “mad cows”… 😆 Great entry for the challenge Naomi. Thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*

  11. And you’re giddy too at this sight, I’m sure (just kidding). What an experience! You don’t see this often on the city streets, do you? 🙂 Thank you for dropping by my blog.

  12. “and not a xxxx was given that day”? Delightful.
    Reminds me of a day when my horse and I were chased by ‘mad’ cows. I think they were just having a laugh. Horse panicked and ran and I was with him all the way. But it was miles before I managed to get him back under control 🙂

    1. Hi Footsy!
      Wow! Cows are very big critters, and that would make anyone nervous. Glad you got your horse turned around, and lived to tell the tale. So glad that you shared it here.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Spending a summer in New England has been a terrific experience for Bea. I was so impressed with the Yiddish Book Center. We also went to visit Sturbridge Village, among other places in the area. Above all, it was just so good to see her. I’d have been happy if we had never left the hotel room!

    1. This reminds me of one of my trips to England, in the midst of lambing season. I saw baby lambs everywhere, leaping and prancing and jumping. I realized that they were “gamboling”! Suddenly I had that visual image of a phrase I had been hearing all my life.
      Love your comment, Paula. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  13. These cows certainly have lots of personality! This is my all-time favourite post of yours so far. The comparison to human females is outrageously funny and entertaining. I must pick myself up off the floor.

    1. That is too cool, Cathryn! I think they are beautiful creatures, and I have never seen such personality in a pair of cows before! Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your story. I remember visiting you on your farm in Duncan, but can’t remember if you had cows then. I remember your being up all night helping a ewe give birth.

  14. You must permanently carry a camera Naomi? Your story reminds me of a hilarious episode in one of the late Pete McCarthy’s books about Ireland. He (the author) is slowly backed into a hedge by what he takes to be a bull, and is eventually found, delirious with fright, by the farmer – ‘Is it the cow that is worrying you?’ said he.

    1. Hi Roy,
      I love this story! I read it aloud today to my Irish friend Monica MacNamee, and she was in stitches. Thanks so much for brightening our day with a good laugh!

  15. A really charming post, Naomi. You and your family do have the best fun. Thanks for sharing your mad cow adventure, and I agree with you about not waiting around patiently to be put out to pasture. Love that zany pic of the two of you goofing around. 😀

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      I’m so grateful to have kids who are willing to goof around like that. Bea and I were like those two cows, giddy to have some time off together to go and play. I know you are the same way–always off on an adventure, or thinking about the next one! And I love your posts about your big fun family get togethers!
      Thank you so much for your very kind thoughts. I always love to hear from you.

    1. Hi Meg,
      It was a lovely campus–not used to seeing one in such a rural location. And it WAS fun to watch a little bovine drama unfold. Thanks for the visit!

  16. Cute story. A VERY unexpected story because those are a rare breed of cattle called “Belties” or more properly Belted Galloway cattle. They originated in Scotland.

  17. Somewhat of an off topic comment here but I just wanted to say congrats to your daughter for being able to study at the Yiddish Book Center. they do a lot of great work there! (They were a client of mine a few years ago at a non-profit focused ad agency.)

    1. Hi Peter,
      I can’t tell you how impressed I was when I visited the Yiddish Book Center. I gave my daughter Aaron’s book, OUTWITTING HISTORY, about the founding of the center. She read the book, and told me some of the amazing and inspiring stories. When she learned about the program, she could hardly wait to apply, and I joined to support the good work that they are doing. She is learning so much, and loving it.

  18. Great Post, Naomi. I learned from my father to love cows. And there are so many reasons to love them, when we see them more or less free. Unfortunately, They are most often seen penned and under duress these days, so showing them as you have in this post is reason enough for joy. So glad to hear of your daughter studying Yiddish. It is such a rich and beautiful language… and will be still richer when she joins the ranks of those who express themselves in that fine tongue.

    1. Hi Shimon,
      It is exciting to see Bea at the Yiddish Book Center. She is not only learning Yiddish, but she is learning the songs, the dance, the history, the culture of Yiddish, working hard, and loving every minute!

    1. Hi Bluebee!
      I LOVE Gary Larson’s take on cows. I have observed them over the years and believe that they have so much more personality and intelligence than we give them credit for.
      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this. Thanks for the visit!

    1. Hi Grace,
      Thanks so much for the visit. I love tagging along on all the family trips that you take with Jakub. I am so looking forward to going back to the Czech Republic now that I have seen so much of it on your blog.

  19. I loved this post! I see from the comments, I wasn’t the only one taken with the “Oreo” description. Looks like you girls had a great time together. The scenery is just beautiful, yes, you do know your greens.

    1. Dear Patti,
      Thank you for making me smile! I’m just catching up on my blogging after a trip, and it is so fun to read your comments. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts on this piece.

  20. Nice to see such happy cows. I would have loved watching them. Thanks for sharing. And 97–I don’t miss that about MA.

    1. OMG! I almost collapsed from heatstroke! When we walked cross country to the farm with the little homemade ice cream shop, we stayed for more than an hour before stepping back outside to brave the heat. Thanks for the visit, and congratulations on the release of your new book. It is a huge accomplishment, and I am so so happy for you.

  21. Brilliant. What a great story you discovered and have shown to us. Growing up in Idaho, I of course saw dairy cows all the time and never gave much thought to their existence, but perhaps as I mature and the idea of death grows closer, I realize we all do have to take your advice and jimmy the corral gate open. Thanks for the good advice!

  22. I love those cows. I see many cows but not enough of the black & whites. Love the pic of your face and kids in the farmer picture. Hysterical. You have way too much fun doing your job. 🙂

    1. Hi Susan,
      Thanks so much for the visit. I’m lucky to have kids that I don’t seem to be able to embarrass! Taking that farmer photo was a fun part of the visit to Massachusetts (taken at Sturbridge Village), and I was glad to figure out a way to be able to share it.
      I’ve been reading some great reviews of your new book, Susan. You just keep doing like you’re doing, and making us all proud!

  23. We have lots of black and white cows in the UK (Friesians). They looked in very merry mood in your photos, but beware of cows who have their calves with them, as they’ll charge you to protect their young. And when a cow charges, she has her eyes wide open meaning she can see her target, unlike bulls that charge with their eyes closed, so you can dodge them.

    1. Dear Sarah,
      There is something a little intimidating about a thousand pounds of beefsteak on the hoof, but these two cows were definitely into their own little lark. I think what you say about the difference between a Mama cow’s and a bull’s charge is extremely astute, and could probably be applied to the human species as well.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your reaction and your knowledge. It is always so good to hear from you!

  24. Cool frolicking cows for sure. I always wondered how that cow jumped over the moon.
    (And a beautiful and intelligent daughter, too!)

  25. Hi Naomi – catching up on my saved blogs and feel like I’ve cuddled up with an old friend who always makes me smile with the unexpected. Love it! Oreo cows are just what I needed. Reminds me of the many early mornings being woken up with the cry of “the cows are loose!”…and trying to make myself look and feel bigger with a stick waving madly in each hand as they headed my way….

    And what fun to share this memory with your daughter!


    1. Dear Terri,

      I had to smile to read your comment. “The cows are loose!” is the great beginning to a story–I hope we’ll get to hear more of it.
      So nice to hear from you–hope you are well. Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your story too.

  26. I love that you added my challenge to this post. The pictures are wonderful, and I wish I had the freedom of these cows! Thanks for joining the challenge!

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