an incident in nebraska

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [noted] that about 20 people a year are killed by cows in the United States…in most cases the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim…five attacks were by ‘multiple cattle’…one victim died after a cow knocked him down and a syringe in his pocket injected him with an antibiotic meant for the cow…”


by brian doyle


Pin his arms, Edna! Remember the sketch we drew! Envision success! Be your success! Use your weight! No, I am not saying that you are fat, although you could stand to lose about four hundred pounds, but let’s not fixate on appearance! Exterior belies interior! And I am really fat also! Maybe my fat is an empathetic gesture that actually means another and much deeper level of commitment than is evident to the casual glance! Remember what we discussed with the therapist! Focus on outcomes! I did not have a crush on the therapist, I liked the therapist in a friendly and safe fashion, there’s a clear distinction between infatuation and….Careful of the syringe! Let Biff get that, like we planned…yes, I do trust you, I trust you completely, but Biff has smaller hooves…he was given different gifts…I think maybe there was an antelope in his family line but we have to rise above the manacles of the past and be the best we can be right now, so this is not the time to say anything about Biff in a judgmental way…Edna, ignore what Farmer Earl is shouting. Has he ever been truly honest with us? Remember his pattern – the small talk, the soothing tone, the warm hands on your capacious teats, and then the sudden savage jab in the buttock with that needle he bought at a Defense Department yard sale. He’s always copping a feel, and nuzzling up close to you, uncomfortably close in my view, you didn’t see me getting within an acre of that therapist but old Farmer Earl could stick his arm into your uterus and never a peep from you, but I acknowledge forthrightly that personal space boundaries are absolutely the bailiwick of each individual entity, I totally respect that, but…yes, he dresses well, he covers his private parties with cloth, and he never calls attention to that disgusting rope of snot swaying from your nostrils, but it’s a capital error to consider clothing as revelation of inner character, and I have never mentioned that horrifying snot-tangle as thick as a weasel, have I, you don’t see me saying a word even when it gets stuck on a bush or something and trails behind you like the umbilical cord from hell. Some creatures we know are comfortable making disparaging remarks about ropes of snot and then sniggering like asthmatic badgers but I choose a different way because I am the master of my choices. Don’t touch his wallet! Remember the plan! He’ll offer us money, but we just say no! It’s all about good choices, Edna. Yes, that’s a photograph of you in his wallet, but that could mean anything – he could be planning to sell you to Burger Queen! He could be selling you as a sex slave to the coyotes! Ignore what the cat says – the cat listens to Elton John while bathing. The cat is not all about good choices. Easy now, easy…let Biff perform his part of the plan…It’s all about shared responsibility, Edna. We each play our part in the communal consciousness. We each are given different gifts. You have a gift for sudden assault, and Biff has a gift for … acquisitiveness. Me? My gift is for management and supervision, for the calm direction of cooperative effort, so that we can all meld our disparate gifts in a positive manner. It’s a subtle gift, really. A gift that only flowers when the right team is in place. It’s all about the team, Edna, and I think we can take a quiet pride in what we have accomplished here today…where’s the wallet? It’s all about good choices, Biff! Remember that! Biff!

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Four
July 2012


Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall.  He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved.  Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017. 

More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.




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