I smiled at this headline in my hometown newspaper. I pictured Gary Larson-like cows standing on their hind legs peeking out from behind bushes at passing police cars.
I read more. The first paragraph of the article told me that, after a recent police cow chase gone awry, farmers would be hosting “educational seminars” to teach police officers how to herd cows. I chuckled out loud at the image of farmers in John Deere hats laser pointing their way through a PowerPoint presentation of animated cows.
Then came the quote from the mayor. “The good souls that they (OPP officers) were, had no idea how to chase cows,” she said. “They put the siren on.” I doubled over with laughter. My daughter had to pick me up off the floor.
I grew up on a farm and I’ve herded many a cow in my day. Here’s a pointer for you: When herding cows, sirens are not recommended.
How far our society has strayed from its rural roots, and sometimes it’s not so funny.
In late October 2011, media outlets in the Ottawa area reported that Gatineau police had shot a runaway cow. (After they had chased it with their sirens on.) I first heard this news from a radio source and thought, “Why on earth would they have to shoot a cow? Cows are pretty docile. Just wave your arms, and they’ll head where you want them to.”
Then I saw the video footage. I realized instantly that the animal they shot was not a cow (female), but a young bull (male). BIG difference. One or two errant cows, no problem. (Unless you spook them with a siren.) One errant bull—no matter how young—different story. (Especially after being spooked by a siren.)
For days and days media outlets ran factually incorrect stories using the word “cow.”
Apparently there was not one person working at any of the media outlets who could take a quick glance at the footage and say, “Um, that’s a bull, not a cow.”
The police had no idea how to deal with cattle, so they startled the poor thing with their sirens. The journalists didn’t know the difference between a bull and a cow, so they misrepresented the story.
I find the disconnect between urban and rural worrisome.
Not enough of us know how it feels to pluck an egg, still warm, right out from under a chicken, or to pull a carrot from the soil, brush off the visible dirt and eat it down to the green nub while standing right there in the garden rows. Not enough of us have fed a calf a handful of grain and then rubbed their saliva off on our work clothes, or stepped into fresh warm cow patties with our bare feet to let them squish through our toes. (We’re all too germ-phobic to do those things now.)
And not enough of us know how to herd cows.