Some cows never learn

Posted by | June 4, 2013

“That night, as Mutt and I lay on the featherbed that Grandma had made, we talked by the light of the coal oil lamp. We were working on a plan on how to get rid of Old Betsy. That cow just had to go, we reasoned, and soon. Our first plan was to throw rocks at her all the way to the barn, hoping she would fall and break a leg and become a part of dinner. Well, we rocked her to the barn every day for about a week, and not once did she fall. So it was time to work on Plan Two. Betsy was smart, be we were smarter than any old cow.

“Here was our plan: There was this small path that ran alongside this small cliff. Mutt would do about anything I ever told him to do, me being his bigger brother and all, so we came up with this great plan. How could it fail? We asked ourselves.

“I said, ‘Mutt, you rock Old Betsy down the hill like you always do and I will stand in the path and wave my arms and cry ‘Shoo, Betsy, shoo!’ and she will run over the cliff and kill herself.’ The next day, we figured, would be Betsy’s last day on this earth. After all, how could a great plan like that fail?

“So, that next afternoon, old Mutt ran Betsy down the hill, throwing rocks at her and cussing all the way. I was ready. Standing in the path, I hollered, ‘Shoo, Betsy, shoo!’ I saw Betsy coming down that narrow path—800 pounds of speeding dynamite looking me straight in the eye. I was doing everything that I was supposed to do, waving my arms and crying ‘Shoo, Betsy, shoo!’

“But that stupid old cow didn’t understand one word I was saying. She hit me like a speeding locomotive and I went sailing over the small cliff intended for Betsy. When I landed, I hit hard. And boy, did I ever hurt. Nothing was broken but I sure was in a lot of pain for the next few days.

“On Saturday afternoons, Mutt and I always went to the movies. Most of the shows were cowboy movies, and Mutt and I just loved cowboys. Sometimes, the cowboys would ride bulls in the movies. That gave me yet another plan. Betsy hadn’t won yet. No one could ever get me to say ‘uncle,’ and no cow was going to beat me.

“So I told Mutt, ‘Here’s what we will do.’ I planned it all. I told Mutt that I would get on top of the barn and that he should run Old Betsy out through the barn door. ‘As she comes out the door,’ I said, ‘I will jump on her back and ride her into the ground.’

Mutt said, “Ralph, do you think you can do that?”

I said, “Sure I can.”

Well, I climbed up onto the barn roof and readied myself. Then I called out, “Okay, Mutt, let her rip!”

“Out the door came Old Betsy, sailing straight away. I leaped off the roof and landed right in the middle of her back! Away we went–down through the barnyard, out through the gate and into the backyard of our house. Betsy and I were headed straight for my mother’s clothesline. Betsy decided to take me right into it. I caught the line full in the middle of my neck — the darn thing almost took my head off! As I fell, Betsy went one way and I went the other, landing on the ground, square on my butt. Yep, some cows just never learn.”

Excerpt from Why Daddy Sold Old Betsy, by Ralph Hall, Ithaca Press, 2009

Ralph Hall, born 1936, was raised in Melvin, KY.

farm+chores Melvin+KY appalachia appalachian+history +history+of+appalachia Ralph+Hall

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