Bethany of Tower Farm
Bethany was a Friesian, but she was none too happy about it. Probably if she’d been a Highland cow, this story would never have been written, mellow and fluffy as she would likely have been. But Bethany was a Friesian and had a temper to match, righteous though it was. She was also—hmm, how can I say?—well, she didn’t half go on a bit.
Anyway, the first time it happened was the winter of 1928. Bethany had observed the way the farmhand treated the farmer’s daughter over the summer months and her temper was getting frayed. Truth be told, Bethany was in love with the farmer’s daughter: the way her plump and steady arms and her soft and gentle hands pulled gently at Bethany’s teats was endearing to her. Plus, the farmer’s daughter told Bethany all her secrets, and Bethany found herself believing she was the maiden’s protector. It’s why she was mad about being a cow, she’d have rather been a wolf or a knight or a bullock at least.
Nevertheless, you can’t undo birth and Bethany was a cow, and by the winter of 1928, she realised she had a job to do. The farmer’s daughter had confided in Bethany that the farmhand had been a little too aggressive in his (unwanted) advances. He seemed to think he had a god given right to access the draws of the farmer’s daughter, since he was the only farmhand within 4 miles. The farmer’s daughter, however, was content with her evenings alone doing astrophysics, writing sonnets, and inventing new and terribly complicated puzzles that only she could unravel.
Bethany’s giant heart ached at the perfection that was the farmer’s daughter. So many brains, so much tenderness in teat pulling, so much strength of character – she must be protected! As such, Bethany decided that the suspicious little farmhand needed some fright putting into him, and she was just the cow to do it. Therefore, after consulting with George the Border Collie, Bethany hatched a plan.
Her first job was to kick a bunch of beetroots from the store into one of the metal buckets George had found laying around. To be honest, her aim was about as good as any novice golfer’s, but George’s nimble and nudging nose guided the beets where Bethany’s hoof failed. Once the pail was full of beets, Bethany took one (graceful) forefoot and mashed them down until the beets had turned to a blood red juice. Next, Bethany carefully picked up a turnip in her mouth and placed into the bucket, so it floated there in the beet juice. She and George looked at it a while, nodding their respective heads at their handiwork. The first stage of the plan was complete.
Bethany waited until nightfall, and given that this was the winter solstice she didn’t have to wait long. She picked up the pail and walked as quietly as she could towards the tower which stood opposite the farmhouse, where the humans were enjoying a small and ancient celebratory solstice feast. A feast of much import since this particular solstice conveniently coincided with a full moon.
Just as the full and beautiful moon became perfectly framed within the circular window of the tower, Bethany rose up on her two hind legs as she struck her powerful chest with her forefeet. George was amazed! Bethany then made the loudest ‘mooooo’ of her life as she charged at the tower’s wall and caused a large hole to appear which she used to frame her wrathful body.
The humans came running out of the farmhouse to see what the commotion was, and as they arrived before her, Bethany took the turnip covered in beet juice out of the bucket and kicked it right at the farmhand’s head… and missed! Bethany was mortified but luckily George, like all Border Collies, was one smart dog, and had mitigated against this (let’s be honest) expected situation by earlier nudging several more ‘neeps by the tower. He rolled one towards Bethany who dunked and kicked again. And again. And again…
By the time the moon had vacated the window, Bethany had managed to hit the farmhand’s left hand a grand total of once, his right foot three times, and the rest of the family 47 times in various parts of their bodies. The humans were confused, but not overly aggrieved. Never mind, there was always tomorrow Bethany thought, and tomorrow there was and, in fact, every night for nigh on two weeks. Some nights Bethany kicked the beety ‘neep, other times she smashed it to smithereens, and astonishingly given the nature of her feet, she once even ripped the ‘neep in clean in half! She only stopped when the new moon failed to give her the ghostly glow she felt her dramatic antics warranted.
For three nights Bethany and George waited. On the first night, George didn’t say much: he wasn’t sure how well Bethany would take his observations. On the second night, he braved it and mentioned that he had heard the farmer’s daughter talking about Laws of Probability and Statistical Likelihoods, and it seemed to George that Bethany’s actions were more apparent than her motivations: no one knew that the bloody turnip head was meant for the farmhand as they had all taken hits.
It took Bethany all of the next day to stop moaning about how offensive George’s observations were (I told you she did go on). However, by the time the fourth night arrived, she had calmed down enough to accept the truth of them. A new plan was hatched in which George, our beloved and faithful Collie, played a greater role. This time, as the waxing moon once again became visible through the tower’s circular window, Bethany and George strode out purposively to greet it. George rode on Bethany’s back, whilst he howled and Bethany mooed in a choral and genuinely harmonic symphony.
The humans ran out once more from the farmhouse to see what the commotion was about. The farmhand pushed his way to the front (it was a large family) and proclaimed that he would deal with this malarky. This was just what Bethany and George hoped for and this time, after Bethany dunked and kicked the ‘neep, George leaped and directed the wayward turnip right at the farmhand’s head. Over and over the beety ‘neeps landed fair and square on target thanks to Bethany’s power and George’s nimble nose.
The farmhand, he roared with anger and embarrassment and the farmer’s daughter, well she laughed convulsively. No more fancy probability and statistics needed here: all and sundry could see the intended target! Bethany and George’s message was loud and clear: the farmhand had twenty-three days to find a new farm else the maggots of the field would rise up through his boots and come out of his eyes. As much as the farmhand had the jones for the farmer’s daughter, he did, sensibly, value his life more, and so the next morning he packed his bags and was gone.
(PS: Whilst Bethany’s hope of marriage to the farmer’s daughter never bore fruit, she did enjoy a more active relationship with her from that day hence. The savvy farmer’s daughter maximised Bethany and George’s working relationship and started a training school for cows and dogs. Many a cow in Caterham and the surrounding district was able to live a more fulfilling life due to Bethany’s courageous actions. She deserves a Blue Plaque in my and George’s opinion.)