My husband Steve is from a small town in Iowa called Fairfield, and when his boys were young we used to go there every summer to visit his folks. They had a house on a few acres of land, and two very large buildings where his dad used to keep his milk trucks. When Steve was growing up, his dad had a milk distribution business – in other words, his dad was the milkman.
Steve and his siblings had to help with the business by running milk routes. And oh the stories they tell…. You’ll find bits and pieces of them in the short story below. I began writing this for my youngest step-son Brandon when he was around six or seven (I think). If I’m recalling correctly he suggested the subject of a flying cow, and the below is Part I of the result.
(For those of you who end up wondering what in the hell golden domes and pillows have to do with flying, you can get the full scoop from Google, but basically there’s a community of folks in Fairfield who practice Transcendental Meditation in big golden domes. It includes a practice called “yogic flying,” where they sit on pillows and then do these crazy butt hops. Like really high, long butt hops. They must have some serious glutes on them. But it’s not really flying. True story. Look it up.)
Bo Vine Gets Her Wings
Once upon a time there was a cow named Bo who lived on a very nice farm with a very nice farmer named Vine. The farm sat in the middle of a beautiful green field that was somewhere very close to, but not exactly in, Fairfield, Iowa.
Bo had a good life on the farm; Farmer Vine was very kind and the grass was very green and abundant so Bo always had plenty to eat. When Farmer Vine came to milk her in the morning and then again at the end of the day, she would contentedly chew her cud, knowing that the milk she was giving would go to feed children in schools, and people in hospitals.
In fact, every morning she would see the milkman drive by, delivering her milk all over Fairfield and all of Jefferson County. She would wave her ears and swish her tail and give him a big Moo to say good morning, but the milkman never seemed to notice her. He did, however, notice the farm dog who would run from the field to chase the truck. Each morning the milkman would call out, “Hi dog!” But he never said anything to Bo.
Bo wished that people would notice her more. But, after all, she was just a cow and people living somewhere very close to, but not exactly in, Fairfield, Iowa didn’t normally notice cows very much. Sometimes while she was chewing on the grass in the field she would wonder if anyone other than Farmer Vine would ever notice her.
And one day, while she was eating and wondering that very thing, a small bird flew down and began pulling a worm out of the wet grass in front of her. Bo said, through the grass in her mouth (because cows don’t have very good manners and often talk with their mouths full), “It must be wonderful to fly.”
The bird cocked his head and looked at her with his shiny round eye. “Well,” he said, “I’ve never not been able to fly, so I wouldn’t know what not flying is like. But I would have to guess it is wonderful. I can go pretty much anywhere I want, I can get there quickly, and I can see everything that’s on the ground.” And to demonstrate he quickly flew up to the branch of a nearby tree, over to a phone line, landed on Bo’s back for a moment, then lighted back on the ground in front of her.
If Bo could have clapped, she would have. But being a cow all she could do was sigh, which just sounded like a long moo. “That was wonderful,” she said. “I would love to do that.” She chewed quietly for a moment, then asked, “You don’t think you could teach me to fly, do you?”
The bird considered it a moment. “I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s not like I really had to learn. It would be like me asking you to teach me how to give milk.”
Bo thought about that. It was true, she would have no idea how to teach someone to give milk – it was just what she did. But the idea of everyone noticing her in the sky seemed like a good one.
“And anyway,” he continued, “I don’t think a flying cow is a very good idea. You’re awfully big, and it would probably scare people to death.”
Bo just hung her head, and the bird felt badly for her. He tried to think of something that might cheer her up, when he had an idea.
“Wait a minute,” he said, “I just thought of something. Not too far from here is a very strange place with big golden domes. I’m sure that while I’ve been eating on their lawns I’ve heard that they’re teaching people to fly in those domes.” Bo felt a sudden surge of joy.
“Please,” she said, “tell me how to get there!”
“Well,” the bird said, “you go over that field, two cornfields to the right, and you’ll see one of the domes.”
Bo turned her head in that direction, wondering how far it would be for her to walk. She wasn’t sure she would be able to find this place by herself.
“One more thing,” the bird continued, “they can’t teach you to fly unless you have something called a pillow. Do you have a pillow?”
Bo shook her head sadly. “I don’t even know what a pillow is,” she said, “and somehow, I just don’t think it would be that easy for me to get there. You can fly, but I’d have to walk and it sounds like it’s a long way away.”
“I’m sorry,” the bird said to her kindly. “But cheer up. After all, you’re a cow, and cows don’t fly. They do a wonderful job of giving milk to people, but they just don’t fly.” He finished the worm he was eating and hopped over next to her. “I’ve got to be going now,” he said, “I hope to be back some time again. It was nice chatting with you.” And with that he flew up and over the trees at the far end of the field.
Bo felt so depressed she couldn’t eat for the rest of the day, and didn’t have very much milk to give that evening. Farmer Vine was afraid she was getting sick, so he led her into the barn for the night. He gave her plenty of hay, patted her on the back, and said goodnight.
Bo slept, and when she awoke her hunger got the better of her. Farmer Vine came in and for awhile she chewed and swished, and listened to the sound of her milk hissing into the pail. After the milking, Farmer Vine put her out in her field. Bo just started walking. As she walked, she noticed a hole in the fence that hadn’t been there before. Looking around, she decided to go through.
She found herself in another field she didn’t recognize at all, on the other side of the fence. As she walked she noticed that the grass looked very green. She dropped her head and began to eat. As she pulled up some grass, she raised her head and looked around while she chewed.
“I so wish I could fly,” she thought.
Now, what Bo didn’t know was that she wasn’t in any ordinary field. She was in an enchanted field, that grew only four-leaf clovers. And as anyone knows, when a cow makes a wish while chewing on four-leaf clovers, that wish is sure to come true.
Just as Bo was starting in on another patch of clovers, she noticed a tickling feeling in her left ear. She swished it around, and kept chewing. The tickling came back, just like someone was tickling her ear with a feather. She turned her head to see who would be playing this game with her, and couldn’t believe what she saw.
There was a large wing coming out of her left shoulder. Turning her head quickly to the right, she saw another wing.
She mooed in amazement. “Wings!” she exclaimed. “This must mean I can fly!” She wasn’t sure exactly how to do it, but she tried shrugging her shoulders a bit. The wings moved, creating a soft breeze. Delighted, she began flapping them harder. To her utter astonishment, her front hooves came off the ground. With a few more flaps, Bo was in the air.
First, she flew around her pasture looking down at the barnyard and the farmhouse. She flew over the barnyard, mooing in excitement. The other animals just couldn’t believe it. The pig fell right into his mud hole, the chickens began laying eggs from excitement and the cat completely ignored the flying cow and continued to clean her face.
Bo swooped down and off, eager to see what else she could see. She flew over some trees and saw a small town. It must be Fairfield! She flew toward the town square, with its shops and gazebo. She was anxious to see all the people, and have them notice her. Her! Bo the Flying Cow!
In the square there were some grandfathers and grandmothers sitting on a bench feeding a big group of pigeons. “Wow,” Bo thought, “what a great life. Just sit there and get fed.” Some of the birds were on the ground in front of the bench, and some were on a statue of a man reading a book to a child.
As Bo flew overheard, a large – very large – shadow passed over the bench. One of the grandmothers looked up and screamed, dropping her bag of bread crumbs. The sound nearly scared Bo right out of the sky. It scared the other people too. They began running and shouting, pointing up at her. They ran to their cars and began driving them off, and someone brought out a cloth to cover the statue. Bo wanted everyone to just calm down, and for things to be like they were. But it was too late for that.
She landed next to one of the pigeons, who looked at her sideways. “Well,” it said huffily, “I don’t know what you think you’re doing here. You’ve completely ruined our breakfast!” A few of the other pigeons nodded in agreement.
“I’m sorry,” Bo said. “I didn’t mean to scare anyone or ruin anybody’s breakfast.” And although she was sorry, she couldn’t understand how anyone could be upset over a few breadcrumbs.
“I just got these wings,” she said, fanning them gently, “and I’ve heard so much about Fairfield, that when I saw the town square from the sky I just had to come down and take a look.”