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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The story that still excites...

In 1983, while I was still an undergraduate at the University of California, I was driving my car back to Berkeley.  There is an exit to Coalinga off Interstate 5 and normally there were about a million head of cattle to the right side of the freeway.  On this particular drive, I noticed a large number of cattle walking together up the hill on the left side of the freeway.  I did not see any people directing the cattle; they seemed to be going somewhere on their own.

As I drove past at 65 mph I realized there were about 50 to 60 cattle walking together.  Ahead of them was a group of four cattle, walking shoulder to shoulder.  The cattle on the outside of this formation were looking at each other.  One of the inner two had its head up, looking ahead, as if to say "We are falling behind."  The other inner member of this formation had its head down, as if to say "I am going as fast as I can."

A bit further, and now quite a bit uphill from the rest were two bulls in lockstep.  They were practically identical in height and weight.  It appeared they were yoked together, and yet there was no yoke.  Each forward foot and rearward foot moved together.  To me, it seemed that they moved as one without any material connection between them.

Ahead of them was something I had never seen before.  There was a cow, an afterbirth was hanging from her rear, and she was practically prancing uphill, with her head high.  This cow was clearly ecstatic and I was amazed at how light on her feet she was considering she was faster than all the others, was furthest uphill, and had just given birth.

I witnessed this as I looked out my windows and confirmed all of it in my rear and side-view mirrors.  I could not wait to get back to my fraternity house and tell all my brothers this story.  When I got back, I ran into the house without unpacking the car and told anyone who would listen the story.  At some point they started to ask me, "What about the calf?  Did you see that?"  I replied that I had not, the calf was hidden from my view.  They asked me, "There must have been something about this creature.  What do you think it was?"  I replied it must have been a perfect two-header: two complete heads, two sets of eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and joined at the base of the neck.

A check of the newspapers the next day confirmed that.  The calf that was born was exactly as I had described.

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