“Oh yeah, right.”
“No, really! A person can do it. I shit you not.”
Kevin O’Reilly entered the four-person suite in Wendelson Hall on the Northeastern University campus and caught a snippet of the conversation in progress between his three roommates--Kyle Erickson, Achmed Abbas and Jimmy Hatfield. Jimmy was a second year electrical engineering major who hailed from Evansville, Indiana, while Achmed was from Queens, New York, and studying mechanical engineering. Kyle was a senior from Belmont, Massachusetts majoring in math.
Kevin took off his coat and joined the conversation in progress.
“. . . Those things can weigh almost a ton, Jimmy.”
“I tell you, they do it in Indiana. My cousin, has actually done it.”
“I’ll bite. They do what?” Kevin asked.
Kyle spoke up.
“Old MacDonald here says that a person can sneak up on a cow that’s snoozing while it’s standing up, and tip it over.”
“And you believe everything you’re told, right?”
“Hey, Johnny wouldn’t pull my leg,” countered Jimmy. “He and a bunch of his high school friends went out to a farm one night and they actually did it.”
Kevin looked over at Kyle and Achmed. He rolled his eyes at them in disbelief.
“Jimmy, consider this,” said Kevin. “You’d need . . . um . . . you’d need almost 2,800 Newtons of force to knock one of those suckers off their feet. A person just isn’t that strong enough. Now, perhaps you could do it with three or four people.”
“Naw. One person, if it’s asleep,” Jimmy retorted.
“Well, I don’t know,” replied Jimmy. He sounded exasperated, as though he were beginning to doubt his own story.
“Maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Maybe Johnny had some help from a friend or two. At any rate, I believe they tipped a cow. He wouldn’t make it up.”
Kevin thought that Jimmy appeared to be on the verge of pouting.
“Tell you what, Jimmy,” said Kevin. “We’ll make you a wager. I’ll take you out to a dairy farm and you can try it. In fact, the three of us will help you. Kevin nodded to his other two roomies. “That ought to be worth a few extra Newtons.”
Achmed shrugged, while Kyle shot a look at Kevin that communicated, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” but he remained silent.
“Jimmy--if you win, the three of us will take turns doing your laundry for the rest of the semester.”
“And if I lose?”
“Then, you’ll have to do our laundry.”
“Hey, that’s not fair! That’s three times the amount.”
“Okay, then we split up the semester between the three of us—you would do just one at a time.
“’That sound fair?”
“Well . . . okay. But you guys have to really try and make it work, and not just screw it up so as to win the bet.”
“Fair enough. Kyle? Achmed? Shake on it?”
* * * * * *
The following weekend, the quartet piled into Kevin’s beat up Pontiac and headed west on the Massachusetts Turnpike to a diary farm Kevin knew of, located in the Central Massachusetts town of Milbury. He and a former girlfriend had stopped off at the farm last summer. They had parked the car in a secluded spot nearby and hiked into a pasture--trespassed, actually--where they enjoyed a picnic lunch along with other “afternoon delights.” Kevin recounted to his friends how there had been a small herd of dairy cows present while he and his girl had frolicked on the blanket. A few of the bovines were intensely curious; they walked up and stood within a few feet of the teens and stared at them.
“ . . . and then, Sally looks up and sees the closest one, and she nearly ‘has a cow’ of her own. I thought I was going to have to put my hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.”
Achmed snickered. “What did she think it was going to do? Drool all over her?” he chided.
“Beats me,” replied Kevin. He paused briefly to take a sip from his King-sized diet Coke purchased at the rest stop.
“Anyway, Sally is history. She was a real ‘girlie-girl’ sort, if you catch my drift. Definitely not my type. We broke up last month.”
Jimmy, Achmed, and Kyle muttered in agreement. In fact, none had actually been involved in any relationships with girls and therefore, hadn’t a clue as to the various personality traits of the fairer sex. They were nerds, and also, they were secretly in awe of Kevin and his conquests.
Suddenly, Kevin interrupted their thoughts of girls and sex when he announced, “Okay, we’re coming up on our exit. Let’s see . . . we got two hours before sunset. Let’s find a place to eat, and come up with a plan of attack.”
* * * * * *
After dark, the group parked near the farm pasture and reconnoitered the property. Kevin, their de facto ringleader, shared his plan.
“Guys—the property is approximately 20 acres, rectangular shaped. You see that small outcropping of rock that forms one of the boundaries of the property? That’s near where I got lucky with Sally. And, guess what? We got lucky, too. That’s also where the herd prefers to hang out.”
“So?” asked Jimmy.
“What do you mean, so, duffas? We can drop stealth-like from that ledge, and catch one of the cows by surprise.”
Kevin pointed to something in the distance.
“Bovines have a defined social hierarchy. Look way over there. See that one standing all alone?”
“It’s the sentry. It guards the herd. If we approach from any other direction, that one’s gonna hear us coming from a mile away and sound the alarm. We’ll never have a chance of catching any that are asleep.”
Kyle and Achmed nodded, but Jimmy stared at him with doubt.
“How do you know this, Kevin? Or, are you just making this shit up as you go along?”
“I read it in Wikipedia.”
* * * * *
“Now, before we go, Achmed: take off your coat. It makes too much noise when the sleeves brush against your side. Everybody: take off your shoes, too. If we do this right, we won’t be walking very far.”
The four slipped quietly from the rock cropping and onto the cold, moist grass. It was an unseasonably warm winter evening, with temperatures still in the lower 50s. Even so, after only a short period of time their sock-clad feet were completely soaked.
Revisiting this field conjured some pleasant memories for Kevin. He could almost pinpoint the exact spot where he had laid down a blanket for the picnic with Sally. If he closed his eyes he could imagine touching those supple, full breasts . . .
Kyle, on the other hand, was thinking of a high school Halloween trick that he and his friends had perpetrated during their senior year on a night much like tonight, against a very despicable neighbor . . .
Achmed wondered whether he could get a cheeseburger from the rest stop in Framingham later that night . . .
There! The nearest cow stood a mere twenty yards in front of them.
Kevin held his finger to his mouth to emphasize complete silence. He then pointed at Jimmy, followed by another hand signal indicating that Jimmy should take the lead, followed by Kyle, and then Achmed. Kevin would bring up the rear. The four crept closer and closer to their target. The quiet, unsuspecting bovine stood motionless with its tail twitching ever so slightly in the moonlight. To all intents, it appeared to the boys the cow was asleep. Jimmy was nearly close enough to reach out and try tipping it . . .
A small twig snapped under Achmed’s foot! The large animal let out a snort; steam escaped from its nostrils. It turned its head and stared directly at Jimmy.
The four froze in their tracks!
The cow started to make a high-pitched call; it repeated the call several times.
“What the fuck do we do now?!” cried Jimmy. Several more bovines had begun to come over at a slow trot.
“Don’t panic. They’re not going to hurt us, so long as we don’t make any threatening gestures or moves.”
“Oh yeah? That’s easy for you to say, Mister Know-It-All!”
“Keep your voice down, Jimmy! They can sense anger. And fear.”
Although he, too, was beginning to feel a slight panic, Kevin continued addressing the group with an air of authority. But, to the cows, his demeanor took on a slightly different tone.
“Nice cows. N-i-i-i-i-c-e little cows . . . I mean, bi-g-g-g-g cows! Be g-o-o-o-o-d cows, now, okay?” Kevin crooned to their intended victims.
Kevin suddenly realized that a dozen bovines now surrounded them. Forget about the measly amount of Newtons of tipping force at their disposal--the group was now face to face with nearly twelve tons of . . . of . . . what? Anger? Fear? Curiosity? Kevin couldn’t tell. They weren’t exactly communicating their feelings. And, just when he thought that things couldn’t get any worse, Kevin felt something squishy underfoot. To his revulsion, Kevin found himself standing in his stocking feet smack dab in one of many cow pies underfoot!
“Guys, just act . . . “
“Act what, Mister Wikipedia?” exclaimed Achmed.
At that moment, the “sentry” cow arrived. Kevin noticed this one had horns, however. She was, in fact, a he. They were dealing with a bull.
Ignoring Kyle, Jimmy, and Achmed, the bull walked up to Kevin, rightly singling him out as the apparent leader. The bull snorted and then stomped his hoof on the ground.
Kevin stood motionless. In fact, Kevin was scared to death. Kevin closed his eyes and silently recited a portion of a prayer he recalled from Sunday school kindergarten when he was but a mere lad of five years old:
You made a brilliant world.
Blue skies and fluffy clouds.
Warm sun and night time stars.
Flying birds and swimming fish . . .
There were no atheists in foxholes.
Just then, Kevin felt the bull’s head, with its coarse fur pushing hard against his upper shoulder. Kevin’s eyes were tightly shut, so he was ill prepared for the forceful shove. Consequently, Kevin went from being the tipper to--the tippee. Kevin stumbled, landing facedown in the manure. Although it was a comical sight, his companions dared not to laugh or even make a sound.
After what seemed to the quartet to be an eternity but in reality, lasted less than 45 seconds, the cows and bull signaled an end to the hostilities. To the boys’ surprise, the herd simply walked away.
Kevin slowly picked himself off the ground, wiping as best he could the cow shit off his face and arms.
“Ewwww! Gross!” said Jimmy.
“Disgusting,” added Kyle.
“Any more bright ideas?” chimed Achmed.
Achmed, Kyle and Jimmy took off at a trot towards the rock outcropping, leaving Kevin to stand by himself and ponder the events that had just transpired. A moment later, after his pulse and respiration had returned to normal and he was thinking clearly again, Kevin found himself pondering the question:
What did it take for them to put me down? Maybe . . . 300 Newtons of force?
Phil Temples grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. He's lived in Boston, Massachusetts for the past thirty five years. His professional career spans the fields of software engineering and computer systems administration. For the past dozen years he's worked as a computer systems administrator at an area university. Phil also writes. He's had over forty of his short stories published in print and online publications. Phil's first novel, is now available in print and e-book from . HIs second novel, a paranormal horror-mystery entitled was recently accepted for publication by