Chased by Cows!

Today was an adventure.

For those of you who do not know, I am in England. On a research trip. I’m spending a few days in the small town where the book I am writing takes place–in the month when the book I am writing takes place–and it has already been super-incredibly-valuable for a thousand and one different reasons.

The plan for today was to take a walk. My hero is in the countryside. He takes walks. So does my heroine. (In fact, they take more than one walk together.) And luckily, when I popped into the tourist information center yesterday, there was a handy-dandy guidebook describing 13 walks of varying length, all starting from the center of town. Score!

So I picked up one of them. Before I start, I have to make a confession: I do not navigate well. In fact, I have the worst anti-navigational system ever. In part, this is because I don’t know directions of any kind. In part, this is because I don’t like taking directions of any kind. And in part, it’s just sheer cussedness on my part. I wish I could explain it. My husband believes, firmly, that this is all a product of my imagination and if I would just try it would all work out. Ha ha ha ha ha.

In any event, this guidebook is lovely and wonderful, but the “directions” for the walks look like this: “Turn right between the large stones to walk down Mill Lane (not signed). On reaching the lane at the bottom turn right and walk uphill, where the road turns sharp right you take the stile on the left, cross the field to follow the hedge on your right downhill to a stile at the bottom.”

Which sounds reasonable in theory. Except telling Courtney to turn between the large stones to walk down an unsigned lane, and then to take the stile on the left where the road turns sharp right… This is not so much a good idea. Questions arise during the actual attempt. Questions such as:

“Are those stones sufficiently large?”

“Is that a sharp right turn?”

“How far am I supposed to be walking?”

The distance between some of these directions varied from 200 meters to, oh, 2 miles. Without demarcation. In any event, I got completely and utterly lost, about seven or eight times, and it was only with the help of three separate people I met on the way that I eventually managed to complete the walk. But it was all good. I had food. I had water. I can handle anything so long as I am provisioned with apples! (If I am not, I turn evil. Mr. Milan can confirm.)

In any event, once I found myself on the way again, I had these directions to follow: “Look for a signpost and some steps on the left going up the bank to a stile. Once over the stile go half left to the far corner of the field where you cross a stile next to an old gate.”

If you’re thinking this crossing field stuff is a little weird, since it’s someone’s property, don’t worry. There are signs that clearly mark the crossings as “public footpath,” and so property owners don’t get all bent out of shape if they see you.

The thing is, somebody needed to tell the cows that.

I know. I know. You are thinking, “Courtney, you are such a city girl. Cows are placid. Cows are sweet. Cows are not dangerous.” I know this. I realize this. In fact, as I started across the field–and as the cows, 20 yards away, began to amble towards me, I told myself this. I said, “Courtney, the cows are just curious. They are coming closer to have a look. Or perhaps, they are just coming this way because they are hungry. In any event, cows are not dangerous. You have nothing to worry about.”

Like I said. Somebody needs to tell the cows.

There were a lot of cows. Cows are very big. I realize that is a stupid thing to say, but one can comprehend that a cow is a massive animal, and then one can know that a cow is a massive animal. So here I am, these cows walking towards me in one giant herd, thinking to myself that cows are completely safe, even though they weigh thousands of pounds and could  stampede me to death without even noticing I was there.

The cows begin to run towards me.

Now, I realize that cows are not exactly considered fast animals. Horses are fast. Cheetahs are fast. My little dog, who I miss very much, is fast. Cows? Are rather on the slow side. But so is Courtney, and besides, Courtney is sitting there saying to herself, “Don’t run, it’s a bad idea, don’t run.” I don’t actually know if that’s true for cows. It’s true for bears, though, and as you may have noticed, I am a city girl.

So, hundreds (well, tens) of cows are running towards me, and I’m thinking, “La la la, cows are safe, la la la, I am not going to run away from cows because they are completely safe, la la la.”

Then the cows start to surround me. No, really. They flank me on both sides, and they’re running to do so. There is tossing of heads. There is direct eye contact. There is lowering of heads in my direction. I don’t have a lot of experience with cows, but none of these things are sounding good for Courtney. At this point, I realize that while these fine beasts are about half cows, the other half are calves, and I start to rethink my chant of “cows are safe.” Sure, cows are safe, but aren’t all mothers supposed to be vicious? And… I had beef yesterday. They can smell it on me.

I am still not running. I am walking very, very, very quickly. Luckily, the field was not wide, or I am sure the cows would have done for me. I got to the stile on the other side and scrambled across.

Then I turned around. The cows were all staring at me. The word “bovine” usually is coupled with “placid” and “unperturbable.” Not these cows. Every single placid brown cow eye was narrowed in my direction, promising dire retribution should I return.

I stood, my heart pounding on the other side of the fence. And then I looked at the cows. They looked at me. I shook my fist at them, and said the only thing that came to mind: “Bad cows!”

They were not amused.

And then I snapped their picture. If you look closely, you can see hints of smoke, trailing from their nostrils.

Courtney Milan writes historical romances, which might lead people to think that she could be cool. In reality, she's about four different kinds of geeky. At present, this blog is where Courtney applies semi-dormant geek skills to publishing.

20 thoughts on “Chased by Cows!

  1. Too funny. I can just see the look on your face.

    As my mom would say: you now you have a good story to tell…

  2. Cows are dumb, but curious. Many farmers put a hillock or fence in the middle of the grazing pasture. Why? Because cows will graze half of the pasture, then suddenly ‘go, hey? What’s that? Oh, look, there’s grass on the other side of it. If I can get around it, I can eat the grass over there. It’s sure to be better than the grass over here’. Doing this ensures that cattle will not overgraze the pasture.

    And while cattle are herbivores, those Texas cowboys didn’t die of fright during stampedes.

  3. I used to have to cross a field patrolled by bullocks when I lived in Wales.

    I understand completely 🙂

    The good thing is, you now have a great and exciting new situation for your heroine to find herself in…

  4. Susannah,

    You know, actually, you probably haven’t read my second book yet (it is not out, so…), but there is a certain life-imitates-art element to this that I can’t really get into without throwing out spoilers.

  5. Questions arise during the actual attempt. Questions such as:

    “Are those stones sufficiently large?”

    “Is that a sharp right turn?”

    Oh, man, that sounds like me! “Is that a blue house? It’s kind of aqua-ish.” “Do I start counting at this house? It doesn’t face this road, but the driveway’s on it.”


    Now I’m looking forward to the life imitates art book.

  6. GREAT story, Courtney. I started humming “Ghost Riders in the Sky” about halfway through and that increased the suspense value, though it rather diminished the whole quaint, English countryside element so I don’t know I’d recommend it. I do, however, desperately crave steak for dinner now.

    Glad you survived to post it here for those of us not lucky enough to be on a research trip this week. Have fun!

  7. First of all I’m totally jealous that you’re in England! But not so much jealous of the cow episode. My god, do some of them have horns? Anything with horns is scary.

  8. I laughed so hard that I actually snorted 🙂 I can’t wait to hear more about your research trip. I so think you should use the cow adventure in your story that you are in the process of plotting/writing. Since your hero and heroine takes walks this would be priceless.

  9. O.M.G! That is the most hilarious thing I’ve read since Hard Eight. I’m dying here!!

    Now, if you had your sweet dog with you he would have herded those bad cows for you!

    Instead of “bad cows” you should have said “Got beef!” And I think you definitely need to have a big ole steak for dinner.

    And why didn’t you tell me you were going to England?! I would have put my souvenier order in 😉

  10. Glad you finished your walk w/o problem. Hate to bust your safe bubble.. but cows are not safe. Beef cattle are worse than dairy, and with horns makes them even less safe..learned the hard way working cattle. Pick up a walking stick if your going to do more countryside strolls, they are useful for more than balance. P.s. if you normally wear scented products make sure not to wear anything with musk in it if your going to be crossing stock fields.
    Great telling of your encounter.

  11. What a fantastic encounter for your heroine. Mayhaps a hero can save her from the stampede in your work of fiction?

    Hope you are having a great trip. Eat lots of fish and chips, kidney pie, and some Chicken Tikka Masala for me.

  12. Hilarious! My stomach hurts from laughing.

    Me, I’m afraid of rabbits. Got chased up on top of a Volkswagen once by a neighbor’s white bunny. It just…kept…hopping…towards me….

    Your cows sound plenty terrifying. Feel no shame.

  13. Cows are placid animals, for the most part. However, having cut through cow pastures many a time in my youth, I can honestly say I don’t trust them. There were a few with attitude problems that did at times chase me. I always made sure I stayed relatively close to the fence. I spent one early (5AM) searching a misty field for a cow and the calf she had had overnight. The farmer sternly warned me to stay far away if I saw her. You are right about moms and babes. My brother was helping feed one morning when the cow behind him tossed her head. Her horn caught the bottom of his back pocket. It lifted him off the ground and tore the pocket off. Probably an accident, but he could have been seriously injured if he had bee just an inch closer. Never really had any serious problems, but they are bigger than we are and deserve our respect.
    They probably just wanted your apples : )
    As to the directions – we do a lot of hiking here in the States. Those directions leave a bit to be desired. They are fine for locals who are familiar with the area, but not for total strangers. Hope you enjoyed your trip. I am so jealous.

  14. “And… I had beef yesterday. They can smell it on me.” Bwaaahahahahahahahaha!! Lawd, that was so funny! Glad to see you made it out in one piece!!!

  15. Best cow story ever.
    Please go on more walks, as I understand there are also sheep in England who may be waiting their turn at you as well.

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