Cow Stories

The eagerly awaited second instalment of Dave Marcia's bovine saga.

By Dave Marcia

This story was inspired by working in a shit office job with a bunch of other bored graduates.

It was midday on the farm, and as a tepid spring wind danced across the land, Farmer Brown ambled down the lane towards his favourite field. This was no crop field, however, nor was it a muddied playground for the Farmer's porcine pals, but rather a standard acre of pasture, which was home to his best friend and confidante, the cow who was known simply as Cow.

The day's work had been gathering pace all morning, and was now in full swing. All around him, Farmer Brown's livestock were busy: cows were being milked, hens were laying eggs, and sheepdogs were gathering their charges. Strangely, as he made his way to Cow amidst the hubbub, he felt tinges of uneasiness, and the piercing, malevolent gazes of others, where there should have been a swell of pride and camaraderie's shared grins.

“Morning, Cow,” Farmer Brown said apprehensively as he drew up.

“Morning, Farmer Brown” said Cow, gazing around almost furtively, his eyes darting to and fro like a Newton's Cradle. “I... don't suppose you've heard.”

“Heard what?” asked the Farmer, his worst fears rising to the surface.

“A spectre is haunting the farm, my good fellow — the spectre of revolution!” quoth Cow, as his friend drew back in fright. “Dark mutterings have been heard amongst the animals, mutterings which bode ill for you, and ultimately for us all! But worse, this discontent is borne of your kindness, your generosity of spirit.”

“How can this be?” said Farmer Brown in vexation. “I always try to do my best for each member of the farm, from the lowliest chick to the strongest mare!”

“Well, are you familiar with the adage that a little education is a dangerous thing? This is a case in point and no mistaking. Your reading classes have given the goats the power to elevate their minds to a higher level. The arithmetic tutorials mean that the cows can order their own feed and manage the barn as they see fit. The paddock is alive with debate thanks to the ponies' grounding in British And European Philosophy From 1750 To The Present Day.”

“Well, I thought any earlier material would be a bit tricky for them. You can't put Descartes before the horse, you know”

Cow edged in closer as his voice dropped to a severe whisper: “You may well feel this is a time for jokes, Farmer, but I can assure you that the matter is deadly serious. Deadly serious. What beast would choose to lump heavy goods from A to B all day when he holds loftier aspirations? Truffles the donkey has to drag his nose out of Chomsky's Syntactic Structures so he can avail himself of the privilege of bearing your milk load. The chickens have a worker's co-operative, but instead of drawing up a layers' charter they've got to squeeze out morsels for your breakfast. It can't go on much further without open revolt.”

“But I'm good to them!” cried the Farmer, unable to hold his voice any longer. “I was the one who initiated these programs of education and betterment!”

“Of course you were, of course,” said Cow in his most soothing tone, as eyes were turned in their direction, “and the brotherhood still harbours a great deal of affection towards you, for that and many other examples of your kindness. Nonetheless, show a man the stars and he will try to build a spaceship. Now that this lot have their faculties so keenly honed, they want to use them at all times. Nothing short of total control of the farm will do.”

“Now, now, I'm quite prepared to open up management to all and sundry if that's the consensus, but sixty animals doing one job? There'd barely be ten minutes work for us all in the day.” He was unaware that as he spoke, an ever-narrowing circle of animals was tightening around him. “The fact is that in our little corner of society there's a vast amount of quotidian drudgery, and if exercising the old grey matter is what's required then I'm afraid that there's far too much in the way of menial work and precious little that could be described as diverting, let alone interesting, to keep us all happy.”

Looking up, he saw that by this time the assembled inhabitants of the farm had pressed in so far as to be well within earshot.  “Friends, what can I do?” he entreated them. “I raised you up from your former selves to become my intellectual equal, but the milk won't just appear by magic! Standards have been raised for us all; can't we just be glad of that and move on?”

A cacophony of whinnies and neighs filled the air with the sounds of disaffection. Truffles, unofficial leader of the animals, moved towards Farmer Brown, and spoke in his thick Dorset drawl: “What you're saying, Farmer, is that you have built a wonderland for us, but withhold the key to its gates. If we cannot all use our skills and talents, must we instead face the prospect of eternal ennui and be haunted the dreams which you have cast?”

This time grunts of agreement rose above the crowd.  “Well, it's... of course... we... I see how...” stammered the flustered Farmer. “I think what... you should see, in a manner of speaking... is that, on balance...” He trailed off, and cast a sorry figure amongst a growing silence that threatened to engulf him. Cow was overcome by pity for his owner, until he saw his eyes suddenly light up with an idea that he was sure would be both brilliant and practical. The farmer climbed a few rungs onto the fence on which he had been leaning, and pointed behind the gathered throng towards the red barn. “EVERYBODY!” he exclaimed. “LOOK, IT'S POSH SPICE!”

Once the animals grew tired of craning their necks to spot a non-existent figure on the hill, they turned back to be greeted by the vision of a portly and rather desperate man, running as fast as his short legs could carry him through the field normally occupied by the cow who was simply known as Cow. Mutterings, transformed from merely being dark to a distinct shade of blue, were indeed the order of the day. After a few minutes, once the image had disappeared through the hedgerow and on towards the bypass, there was nothing for it. “Back to work lads,” said Truffles. “Bloody milk ain't gonna appear by magic, is it?”
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