A few of my more domestically-inclined friends have expressed bewilderment over how the heck I made it to age 25 without knowing how to make a make a tuna sandwich or cook a chicken breast or, you know, generally fend for myself. It has a little bit to do with my refusal to listen to anything my mom ever said (she tried, she really really tried), and a LOT to do with a cow named Fred.
Cute, huh? Yeah…I’m not talking about that kind of cow.
Fred was THIS kind of cow:
Scary. I know.
Fred the cow was a bull owned by Rich, the man who lived next to my childhood home. Rich was an 80 year old farmer who would carve my sister and I’s names into pumpkins, cart us around in a wheelbarrow, and bring us peas, corn, carrots, and other goodies from his farm on a daily basis. He had arthritis and when the doctor told him that the strain of farming was taking too much of a toll on his body, he made himself a skateboard-like platform to lay on so he could tend to his garden by scooting around on his belly instead of bending over and hurting his back and knees.
My sister and I LOVED Rich and his cow, and immediately decided to adopt Fred as our pet. Rich let us feed Fred and pet him and take him on the occasional “walk” (in other words, we’d get to help wrangle him back in whenever he got loose from the fenced-in field). He’d wave at us with his little ears, flap his tail around when flies were bugging him, and occasionally stomp his feet if we pissed him off. We’d spend hours watching him chew his cud, mystified at the concept of cows having four stomachs and burping their food up just to eat it all over again. A couple times, we attempted to regurgitate our food like Fred, but that didn’t go over too well in our house.
One day, my sister and I were daring each other to touch Fred’s fancy new electric fence when two men tromped by us with shotguns. They were tromping in the general direction of Fred. “Mom!” I yelled, too intrigued to tear my eyes away. “There’s some men out here with guns…”
“Oh. Shit. Shit shit shit.” A couple more muffled expletives came from the nearby house before my mom burst through the screen door. “I totally forgot, I’m sorry, I…oh my god…”
My mom grabbed hold of my sister and I, tugging on us urgently. I looked from my mom to the gun-wielding men and caught a glimpse of their barrels. They were pointed at Fred.
“We have to go, we have to go. We’re going to…to church! We’re going to church right now.” My mom dragged us toward her old blue Honda, thrusting us into the backseat with the efficiency of a drill sergeant. We sped in reverse to the sound of a single gunshot. And then, what felt like an eternity later…a thud.
A couple days went by before our neighbor cheerfully appeared on our doorstep with a package full of steaks. My mom gracefully accepted the gift and thanked him before placing it in the freezer, where it remained untouched until the day we moved. That day, I vowed to never eat meat again. I was eight. I kept my vow until I was twenty-one.
Update: Read on to find out why I stopped being a vegetarian.