I’m surrounded by towering cornstalks. Their bright green is just starting to fade into the gold of late summer, and they sway in the slight breeze. Their itchy leaves leave welts on my bare arms when I shove past, lost in their depths. The bright sun beats down from above making the welts sting with sweat, and my shirt plaster itself like a second skin across my body. I pause, trying desperately to get my bearings.
Rustle, rustle, rustle.
What was that? I spin in circles trying to find where the noise came from, but every time I think I find it, it comes from somewhere else.
Whuff. Rustle, rustle, rustle.
I raise my arms to protect my face and charge deeper into the corn field. I don’t know if I am running towards the noise, or away from it. Off to my right something snorts. Is it a deer, or something else? Something more sinister?
Rustle, rustle, rustle. CRASH! Mrrrrrrreeeeh.
The sound is closer, so I run harder. Leaves whip through my hair and I stumble blindly forward. I trip in a divot of bare dirt and sprawl in the narrow gap between the rows. What was that? I think I see black figures darting at the very edge of my perception. I stand up and keep running, heedless of the itching. Heedless of the pain. All I know is the pounding panic of my heart.
I burst into an opening in the once tightly planted field, and there I see it. Shit, shit, shit! This can’t be happening! But it is. My worst nightmare.
The whole f-ing herd of cows is there, swirling together like a giant black snake ball of destruction. Trampled cornstalks peak their broken limbs up through churned mud and manure. Everywhere around me are half bitten corn cobs hanging sadly from once proud plants. If only it was a dream, but I know it isn’t as the itching and welts register. I am no longer filled with panic, nay; but with the righteous wrath of a long dead Greek hero.
Rage brave Achilles. RAGE.
I grab a broken stalk and swing my weapon wide and the massive black vortex of devastation whirls on me. Their cries sound like those of dinosaurs, not soft moos, but angry ones reminiscent of noises that I have only heard from the Jurassic Park movies. “Mrrrrroooeeeehhhhh”
I summon what strength I have left and charge, my battle cry pierces the air with the power of a hunting hawk’s scream. “WHAT THE F DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?! GET YOUR ASSES BACK IN THE FENCE!” The bull turns at me and bellows out a challenge, but I don’t care that he is nearly 3,000lbs and could easily kill me, this is about principle dammit. If I die this day it is with honor!
I bellow back at him and charge, “I SAID GOOOOO!” I brandish my cornstalk and swing it in one mighty stroke to fell the beast. It doesn’t work, but it does swat him across his massive black butt and breaks off in my hand. He leaps forward towards whatever twisted cattle path his herd created to escape the confines of the pasture, my prowess obviously intimidates him enough that he forgets all thoughts of challenge. The rest of the herd surges forward: a dark arrow that pours out of the field and twists towards a tiny path wending its way through a wood.
Not one to let my enemy away that easily I grab a stick and make a second charge. “Get back there! You don’t belong here! Go home! Go home!”
I chase them back through the hole they must have dug out to get out of the fence. It is most definitely not a new ditch just due to natural erosion, but was created by the herd in a devious and willful attempt to escape me and cause damage to the neighbor’s crops.
Their reasoning? So that he would get pissed, and I don't know, destroy the rest of the fences to liberate them maybe? Take them into his cornfields so that they might not starve with their not so meager rations of grass and alfalfa hay? Call the DCFS (Department of Cow and Farm Services) on me for refusing to feed them grain? (Obviously I need an informant on the inside to discern their true motives here.) Their heinous plot very nearly went unnoticed until it was too late.
I stab my stick down decisively into the soft earth as a barrier and stare at their retreating backs with my hands on my hips. I will reinforce this place, and they shall not escape again. No. Not this way...
I will hold the north fence until my dying breath, or until I get way too itchy from the massive quantities of seed ticks that I am now covered in and I have to go shower. Or a tree falls on it. That could happen too.
This is a fear we carry with us every day, a life with a constant battle of wills and wiles. A vigil that we must maintain. This is, a farmer's nightmare.