One day the cows clustered in the street. Where they came from, no one knew. One morning in May they were just there in the middle of South Street, just past the bank. They were of no local herd and there was no transportation accident reported that could have explained their presence in our town.
The other curious thing was that they didn’t do a thing. They mulled around with an occasional low, but they did not stray from the middle of the street. People stood on the sidewalks on either side as if waiting for them to carry out whatever plan brought them here in the first place. The collective thought was they must have come to our town for something. There was no grazing area holding them here, yet they did not move on.
Finally, Henry Wilson, having just finished his eggs and ham at The Pantry up the street, moved toward the beasts waving his arms up and down at his sides and crowing something that sounded like “Yee-hah, Yee-hah” trying to move the herd along. Some of the cows slowly moseyed from one side of the street to the other. Others just shifted direction jostling each other a bit, but they did not leave the street. It was as if something more powerful held them in that place. Eight-year-old Bobby Winfield was there watching with his grandfather, Dick Winfield, and asked him, “Why are the cows doing this, grandpa?” Dick just looked at the cows, shook his head and said, “It’s just one of them things, Bobby, just one of them things.”
By noon the crowd had swollen to the capacity that a small Midwestern town can swell to as the word of this phenomena reached the outlaying areas. It was about this time that old Earl Smudge appeared on South Street driving his Ford pickup slowly toward the herd. It appeared that he was going to drive the cows forward and out of town with his F-150. But as he approached the herd they nonchalantly, at least so it seemed, moved to the sidewalks scurrying onlookers toward safety. The cows remained there until Earl drove off dejectedly shaking his head, and then they returned to home base.
I don’t know when the vendors arrived, but I soon noticed that the audience was braced with popcorn, soft drinks, ice cream, and balloons. This had suddenly transformed itself into a county fair.
The next attempt to move the cows came as the seriousness of this situation became more evident. Something had to be done, and it was decided to try firecrackers to startle and move the herd. For their protection, one of the councilman who was there and stood for some form of authority, told the crowd to move inside the stores and out of the way in case the cows should stampede. On the signal, a dozen or so brave residents lit strings of firecrackers and tossed them on the ground in front of the cows. As the conflagrations of pops and snaps filled the air, the cows panicked moving about wildly and haphazardly, running into each other and in circles, but still they did not leave the street. As the smoke cleared the herd resumed normalcy, as it was, and the townspeople emerged unscathed.
There they stayed the rest of the day and into the night. Shops closed and slowly the people went home to their beds, sure that the spectacle would be there in the morning.
But the cows were gone. No one had seen or heard them leave; they simply seemed to have disappeared. It was as if they were never there, except there were all those cow patties in the street. They were not found anywhere on the outskirts of town, the fields or woods. They never came back.
Three days later a report came in from Glendale, one hundred miles west of town, that a herd of cows was occupying a part of Main Street. One week later it was Burly Corner.
These mysterious clusterings continued for about a month. Local newspapers headlined them as the Bovine Moovement, which could have a double meaning I suppose. Then suddenly it stopped. It never happened again, but it left people around these parts scratching their heads and with a story to tell. What happened may never be discovered. I guess it was just one of those things.