As I looked back on my early years, I found enough instances to make me scared for what escapades my own children will get up to. Not all of the instances lend themselves to story telling, but a few are worth describing. So, after a bit of pondering, I've decided to write about a night full of adventure, danger, and, yes, stupidity.
I was ten or eleven at the time. The exact age escapes me, but since most of my best adventures occurred around that age, it's safe to assume it was one of those two. It started with with some plotting between two best friends, me and Jessica.
|This picture's a year or two after the adventure.|
|I would have been just a little younger.|
I don't know whose idea it originally was, but both of us concluded that it was somehow essential to our growing-up experience that we go cow tipping.
My house was the obvious choice when it came to staging the endeavor. The property just behind my house was over 70 acres with a herd of about 20 cows. Nobody lived there, and we had permission to play on the property. We usually avoided the cows and stuck to the barns, though--after all, barns didn't stamp their feet and snort at you if you got too close to their babies.
One momma cow in particular always made me nervous. She was huge and red, and she had one horn. And she didn't like kids. This and other concerns, however, were incidental to our current adventure. After all, the cows would be asleep.
We went to bed at a reasonable hour--or at least, we went to my room, where we sat around wearing dark sweatshirts and debating whether or not to bring a flashlight. Finally we decided against it; after all, there were no city lights around, and the moon and stars were always bright enough to see by. Besides, we wouldn't want to run the risk of waking the cows up early by shining a light in their faces.
We waited until the fireflies were gone. We waited until it was completely dark. Even darker than we'd expected, actually, because clouds were completely covering the sky.
Carefully, we snuck out the window. (Actually, we weren't that careful, because I had floor-to-ceiling windows in my room, so all we had to do was slide it up a couple feet and step out onto the porch. Still, it seemed cooler to sneak out the window than to go into the next room over and use the door.)
The most likely place to find the herd was near the barns. We'd rarely ever seen the cows go into a barn, but they were fed near the barns, so it made sense that they'd sleep there.
Gravel crunched loudly under our feet, but it was too dark to avoid all the rocks and sink holes on the over-land route, so we stuck to the road. Soon the barns loomed, brown-black mountains against the blue-black of everything else. We could barely see their outlines. Still no sign of the cows.
"Where are they?" I whispered, "Do you see them?"
"No. Probably just a little further. Isn't the hay behind the barn?" Jessica whispered back.
In the end, it was so dark we didn't see them at all. But just as we passed the barn, we heard them. They were close. They seemed to be all around us, in fact. And they were definitely not asleep.
My mind was suddenly filled with the image of Big Red, and the size of hole her one horn could leave in me.
Being the confident, fearless eleven-year-olds that we were, we made a break for the covered hay bales. These were giant round bales, stacked two-high and mostly covered with plastic. The stack was 3 times our height, and we scrambled up and perched on the highest point we could find, shivering and listening to the cows chew their cuds. You don't know how ominous a sound that is until those cows have you surrounded in the dark.
I don't know how long we waited. We pretended to each other that we were just hanging out waiting for them to fall asleep so we could tip a few and go home; in truth, we were clinging to the hay for dear life waiting for our chance to run.
Eventually the herd moved off, and we dared to come down. We crunched our way back up the gravel road a bit more quickly than we'd come, slid my window up, and went to bed, promising to "try again another time."
We never did.