When I was young I was briefly enrolled in the preeminent paramilitary organization in the United States – The Boy Scouts of America. For a couple of years, I spent time gathering merit badges, camping, biking, attending fundraising activities, playing cruel jokes with friends in the woods and shitting our brains out due to the culinary prowess of my fellow scouts. Good times… There is nothing like sharing a “coffin tent” with another flatulent 12 year old and trying to kill each other with nocturnal emissions. I was a “Moose;” everybody wanted to be in the Cobra lodge, but like in Resevoir Dogs, not everyone gets to be Mr. Black.
On one of the last trips I took with my Moose brothers, we went camping in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We drove there in a fleet of station wagons and pickups, and we drove a few of the scout masters to drink heavily; not that short of a drive I imagine. We spent our days learning scout stuff, which translates into a giant load of ‘awesome’ for boys – being allowed to play with matches, BB guns, wrist rockets, and use hatchets without a mom around. We were being groomed into mountain men, which for me at least, held serious potential as a career path.
On the last night of our camping trip, a rumor began to circulate amongst the scouts. This rumor turned into the best idea ever. When the scout masters were sipping whiskey and telling bad jokes around the camp fire after lights out, we would sneak out on a mission to tip a sleeping cow. There was a cow pasture a half mile from our camp and it had not escaped notice.
My friend Brandon and I lay in our coffin farting when we heard a whisper from one of the older kids whom we idolized outside our tent. “Pssst it’s time. Meet us by the cars and don’t get caught or we will kick your asses.” I could hardly wait.
With all the stealth we could muster we crawled from our sleeping bags and slipped into our jackets and sneakers. We emerged from our tent quiet as mice and froze as a flashlight panned the camp. “I gotta drain the lizard har har,” one of the grownups said as he headed for a bush. We slipped the other way and met the guys. “Ok, follow me,” said the ringleader – one of the Cobra guys.
Into the night we went. Once we felt safe, we turned on our flash lights and crept through the fields. We crossed a creek and traversed three barbed wire fences to our objective. There they were – a whole herd of sleeping cows. We began to giggle and snicker at our cleverness. These stupid cows had no idea what was about to hit them.
“Hey you,” the leader said in my direction. “Me?” I quavered. “Yeah, you first, or are you chicken?” He sneered. I’m no stranger to peer pressure and I know exactly what to do. “Hell yeah,” I said, totally nervous but not about to look like a pussy in front of the other scouts. “Just run as hard as you can and shoulder check it. They are sleeping, so they just fall down!” he said. “Ummm,” I was trying to think of a pressing engagement back at the camp, but I had nothing.
I probably should have warmed up on a goat or sheep but this was my moment. I could visualize the hearty congratulations I would receive if I pulled this off. Nevermind that my previous experience with cattle was limited to eating them. Oh, and I think I may have tried to milk one at a fair once. This, I told myself, was one step closer to being a mountain man or cowboy.
I looked at Brandon. He offered a hand to hold my flashlight.
I charged, I charged as hard as I could. I had recently washed out of Pop Warner football and was not about to be teased at that level again, even if I weighed 90 lbs soaking wet. I’ll never forget it. I hit the cow in the middle as hard as I could. I bounced off and fell on my ass. All holy cow hell broke loose.
The cow woke up with the loudest “moo” ever and looked at me. There was murder in those eyes. She could smell her relatives flesh on my breath and payback is a bitch. The rest of the herd woke instantly and I realized the moo was a cow war cry.
Cows seem like dumb slow creatures until one incurs their wrath; they don’t like being milk machines and hamburgers, but what they really despise is tipping. I lept to my feet and hauled ass. The cows were everywhere and they were running, too. In Spain they run with the bulls. That’s chickenshit. The bulls are going in one direction and the sun is up. That night was bedlam, cows were ricocheting off each other with random blood lust, scouts were running everywhere tripping and screaming and trying to get the hell out of the there. It was like some bovine vs human war movie where the green second lieutenant calls in an airstrike on his own position.
I somehow made it back to camp at what had to be an Olympic sprinter’s pace. I did it in the dark and I don’t even recall how I cleared three barbed wire fences and a creek. As I reached camp, I slowed and caught my breath and then somehow (thank you Jack Daniels) slipped past the adults and returned into our tent. I was cut, bruised, jacked on adrenaline and covered in cow shit. I stripped and jumped into my sleeping bag. I was breathing so hard the tent must have looked like an artificial lung from a distance. A short time later, Brandon unzipped the tent panting. “Holy smokes did you see that?” We both cracked up until our sides hurt. Our laughter only ceased when we heard the scout master yell, “What part of ‘lights out’ don’t you get?!”
The next morning we caught hell. We all had to one-by-one apologize to the dairy farmer whose cows would be giving shitty milk for a week. And to this day I don’t trust cows. I know the evil in their hearts, but I can’t say I blame them. Still, I was a legend for a couple of weeks with my scout buddies – at least until Tim Shultz stole a Postal truck for a joyride and went to jail.