There were three of them.
And I’ll be honest: they scared me.
It takes more to scare me than it once did. Call it the results of dealing with drunks and crack whores and general idiots. Used to be, the thought of a physical confrontation would leave me sick to my stomach. But now, jaded veteran that I am, mostly I just get annoyed.
Except for this. This scared me.
Because there were three of them, and they were big. REAL big.
They’d been hanging out on the road for who knew how long, scaring motorists, causing all sorts of problems, and if this went bad, I was a long way from back up.
So I stopped my squad, lights flashing so that hopefully whatever traffic might run this lonely road would see us before they splattered us into road kill, and climbed out like I was the Lord of All I Surveyed.
“You guys are going back in,” I said. I kept one hand loose and free, like I wasn’t scared of anything. The other kind of floated free near my weapon. I figured if it went bad, it would go bad in a damned hurry. “Going back in. Ain’t no shit about that.”
At first they said nothing, and that dead silence unnerved me. It also left enough silence for my imagination to kick up a little. Deep in my head, I heard them, “Yeah, copper? Then let’s tee it up and see some blood.”
Finally, staring me dead in the eye, jaws moving slowly, the leader said: “Moo.”
“Don’t give me your bullshit. I’m’a Poh-leece.”
“Maybe so, but that doesn’t cut any slack with me, mofo, so get your hairy asses back inside that fence.”
Except it sounded like: “Or?”
“Or we’re gonna have a problem, you over-sized slab of pre-cooked barbeque.”
Evidently, from the fact that they actually ambled toward me – as well as a trio of heifers can amble – my threats cut no ice with them.
Surprised by their lunging at me – okay, less lunging than waddle – I backed up and let my hand hover a little more near my gun.
Okay, now, I don’t know much about cows, I’m a city boy, but as I suddenly wondered if that itty, bitty little .45 I had strapped to my hip would stop one of those sons a bitches if they did actually charge me. I’m guessing, when you compare the relational aspect of a 180 grain slug of lead to a 1,200 pound moving cow, the answer would probably be…uh…no.
I gave my squad horn a little blast and that stopped their forward movement, though it didn’t get them headed back the other direction.
So I glanced around, making sure there were no other cars coming, then looked back at them and –
Hah! I am a top notch cow herder. That’s right, bitches, I grunted and waved my arms and maybe – just maybe – threatened them again with Famous Dave’s best sauce.
For whatever reason, it worked. They turned around, though they did it slowly and contemptuously, and slowly headed back to the prison farm from which they’d desperately bolted only minutes earlier. Once they were moving, though, I realized I was now on the far side of them and the gate and if they went past the gate, I was royally screwed.
But the planets lined up, the Cow Gods made an appearance, and those giant hamburgers wandered right back inside the open gate.
Wow, I thought. How the heck’d I do that? See, ‘cause I’ve dealt with cows two or three or twenty times before and I never had any luck at all. So I’m not sure what happened, but I’ll gladly take credit.
Once they were safely inside – and they never stopped walking, just kept going further and further and further back in the field – I spent fifteen minutes ankle deep in mud and cowshit working the barbed wire gate closed.
When that was done, I gave them a quick salute, another threat about T-bone steaks – to which they answered with a “Moo” that sounded suspiciously like “Bugger off, white boy,” – and went back to work.
But it was a joyous rest of the shift because I realized that if this whole law enforcement thing didn’t work out, I was now able to go straight to Craig Johnson’s ranch in Wyoming with all my cow knowledge and get it done.