My dog, Zip, and I, arrived at my brother Tadferd’s hunting cabin one August evening at around 7:30 p.m. Knowing that we had at least a half hour before the sun would be going down, I grabbed my fly rod, and my borrowed waders, which were about three times too large for me, out of the back of the truck, and I headed down to the creek. The creek ran behind the hunting cabin, and bordered the property between Tadferd's land and Mr. Minyard’s farm.
Mr. Minyard’s fence ran along the creek, keeping his herd of cows within their pre-defined area; which is a good thing, because he had some odd cows… misfits in cow culture, if that’s possible.
Zip had other things to do, and I watched as he took off through the underbrush, knowing he would be just fine.
As I approached the water, my body rattling around in the oversized waders, I noticed a lone cow standing at the fence staring at me.
I tipped my hat to the enormous bovine, out of politeness, and began stripping my line through the eyes.
As I waded and fished up the creek, the cow followed. And, for the next 20 minutes, or so, the cow and I walked side by side on opposite sides of the fence, without word or incident.
I turned to wade back down stream when I saw Zip bounding through the brush and down to the edge of the water, where I was. He came to an abrupt stop when he saw the cow. Head down, hind legs tense, front claws spread firmly on the muddy bank, he stared past me directly at the cow.
The cow was about five feet to my right, and his eyes were fixed on the dog. I heard a low growl come from Zip.
In response, the cow gave a mighty snuffle that sprayed bull snot across the side of my face and directly into my right ear canal. It took three fingers to rake the slimy substance from my right eye. My gag reflex began to kick in, but I managed to pull it together.
Zip let out a prodigious bark and started across the water toward the cow. Half way across the creek his buoyancy failed, and he disappeared below the surface. I marked his progress by the bubble trail that continued toward the bank.
The cow turned abruptly, and began running toward the crest of the hill.
Zip exited the water soggy and vocal. He launched himself toward the barbed wire fence and went through it, perfectly between the top and the middle strand, touching neither. Navigating the opening like an Olympic high jumper, he hit the ground running.
The cow had disappeared over the rise and Zip streaked through the tall grass of the field after him.
A not-so-clear gel like substance fell from my chin and plopped in the water causing ripples to expand in all directions. I could only hear crickets and the running water as the sun tucked itself in for the night.
I reeled in my line, knowing that when Zip got bored of terrorizing that cow, he would return happy and tired from the chase. Then, I would fix us both some supper over the fire, and we would settle in for the night, and we’d go to sleep, content and full.
My oversized waders and I stepped out of the water on the cabin side of the creek. I had to stop and listen to a strange noise that seemed so out of place. I cocked my head to the side in an effort to hear the odd sound better. The rumbling was getting louder. And, closer.
“What the…” I said out loud, looking toward the sound which was coming from Mr. Minyard’s field.
Through the weakening light, backlit by the sunset, Zip came running over the rise. His eyes were frantic, wide, and dilated. His jowls were flapping in the breeze and his tail was tucked under. He sliced through the grass and down the hill in a panic, heading straight in my direction.
The low rumble, coupled with the whisk of the grass as Zip sliced through it, made me uneasy. I looked over his head and saw in an instant what he was running from.
A whole herd of cows began to make there way over the crest. It was as if all the convicts were out on the yard, and chasing one unfortunate individual who had nowhere to go but over the fence.
Dust, grass, and mud were kicked up all around the cows. Their heads were down, and they were all focused on the dog with baneful looks in there squinted brown eyes.
“Run, Zip… RUN!” I screamed, and waved my arm in encouragement.
Zip was coming to the fence and his speed was such that he was not going to have time to navigate through it safely. He took a leap, and for a moment, I thought he was going to make it. But, one of his paws caught the top of the post, and he careened out of control, straight toward me.
I covered my head and and ducked, bracing myself for impact. A gap between my back and my oversized fishing apparel opened up.
Zip skipped once across the water, like a flat rock, then he shot past my head, and into the open gap of my waders. The momentum rolled me over backward, and we rolled down the trail toward the truck. All I could do was close my eyes.
About four revolutions down the trail, I opened one eye and saw Zip staring up at me from inside the rubber pants, a look of confusion etched on his face.
I squinted my eyes shut, and then opened them again when his tail began to tickle my nose. I somehow became lodged in the fork of a tree some 30 yards up the trail, away from the point of impact.
I raised my head with some effort, and Zip fell off my face with a thud to the ground. With one eye still closed, I looked down the trail toward the creek. The cows were lined up against the fence snuffling, and snorting. They stared through the fence at us.
Zip had one paw over his heart and one arm thrown over his forehead in the throws of anguish.
“You gonna make it?” I asked the pile of wet dog lying on the ground next to me. He did not answer but waved me away as if to say, “I’ll be alright, just gimmie a minute.”
We did not cook over a fire that night, we were not full, and we were not content. In fact, that was the last time either of us went to the cabin again.