Well, it’s been raining on Oakdale for the past week, and as a result the grooming area is more than a little muddy. My mud boots (aka Wellingtons) are about two sizes too big (men’s 8 being the smallest size the hardware store sold), which adds a whole new level to the klutz factor.
One of the first times I wore those boots was also one of the first times I handled cows. It was the first year of vet school, and the administration realized that not everyone had grown up on a dairy farm. I’m not even sure I had ever touched a cow. Anyhow, the school scheduled practical handling classes for everyone, with about five people per class, so you could avoid looking like a complete idiot in front of owners. We had regular classes during the day, so the handling sessions were at night from 7-10pm.
The cow handling session was held in the food animal barn at the hospital, which was well lighted, although a little cold in winter. They kept about ten Holsteins there for teaching purposes. The cows were supposed to be in the small paddock right next to the barn that evening, but someone forgot to communicate that to the barn guys, so in fact, they were in a large, unlit pasture nearby.
The guy in charge of the session gave each of us something that looked like a plastic canoe paddle with a rattle inside and told us to go round up the cows. Yeah, these were dairy cows, some of the most placid animals on the earth, but they’re really big, and I’d never been close to one.
Anyhow, that’s how I found myself staggering around in the dark, in an uneven pasture filled with cow patties and mud, shaking that rattle for all I was worth, hoping the cows would stay away from me. If one did charge me, my plan was to hurl the paddle at it and run for the fence, which would have involved leaping out of the boots. Luckily, the cows associated the opening of the gate with food, and all came in of their own accord, so I wasn’t out wandering around long enough to hurt myself.
Later that evening we explored the source of all the cow pies in the field, but that’s a story for another day.