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The Bloody Ballad of Bessie the Sad Cow
credit given to original author if known
I’d always considered myself a country boy from the fact that I’d spent my semesters away at a boarding school outside of the realm of suburbia. When I found myself spending a summer on my girlfriend’s farm after graduation I naturally pushed the fantasy further and pronounced myself a farmer, keen as mustard to get on with the job. I’d even started talking like a yokel.
Now in hindsight I can concede that the farm was not actually that impressive, it was in reality a little less than a thousand acres of neglected and eroded paddocks nestled behind the township of Orange. Sarah and her mother lived there alone and habitually harvested a small veggie garden and tended to a straggling flock of various breeds of farm animal. To me it was god’s country and I happily donned a new Akubra and started making a mess of the fences.
Now here is a word of advice to any unwary city boys who are being taken advantage of by “nice” country girls, they’ve never had a goldfish or a furry hamster. This may not seem like an important piece of information but Sarah’s childhood pet would give me almost as much grief as her bloody mother.
Bessie the sad cow had been Sarah’s pet calf when she was a child. Now Sarah loved the damn thing and it was reputed that her vegetarian lifestyle stemmed from this early cow/girl relationship. I personally couldn’t see the attraction but I met Bessie when she was well into her second decade and was now just an arthritic and half blind walking rump-roast.
Bessie’s defining characteristic was her hatred of me. Somewhere in her bovine brain I had rubbed a raw, primal nerve. Bessie would drag bales of fencing-wire across paddocks, kick over the woodpile and basically do anything in her limited power to piss me off. Maybe Sarah’s mother had poisoned her against me, or perhaps she was just a bitch cow. Possibly Bessie had a premonition of her own demise and saw the part that I would play in that gruesome spectacle.
Bessie hadn’t yielded milk in years before that fateful summer, and with the farm up for sale her days were definitely numbered. The vet quoted almost eight hundred dollars to send Bessie to that big paddock in the sky. It seems the drug or whatever they use has to be administered according to the weight of the pre-deceased, Bessie would require somewhat more than the average hamster. Being the resourceful young farmer that I now was I offered to do the deed for the price of a box of cartridges for the farm rifle. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the vet’s fee would also include the disposal of Bessie’s bloated carcass.
Not wishing to be present for the execution, Sarah and her mother decided to spend the afternoon shopping and maybe catch a show. I resolved to complete the task before they returned so that Sarah wouldn’t be confronted by a murdered childhood friend and the boyfriend that did it. Also this way I wouldn’t have to be the one to comfort Sarah in her grief. On that happy note Sarah and her mother left amongst teary goodbyes to the damn cow, promises by me that I would be gentle and sage assurances they would return by four.
Resolving to be rid of Bessie well before the appointed deadline I calmly loaded the farm .22 and went out into the house paddock and placed the muzzle against Bessie’s aged temple. Now the astute observer may have realised by now that a .22 is a very small calibre rifle. I can, through experience, tell you that Bessie had a very large calibre skull. It took nine shots before she went down and it was not a pretty sight when she did. I won’t go into any vivid detail suffice to say that this particular case of euthanasia definitely was not death with dignity.
As Bessie hit the soft grass with a dull thud a mixture of relief and pride flooded through me. These feelings were closely followed by a mixture of horror and disbelief. What the fuck was I going to do now with one and a half tonnes of limp beef? A simple favour to Sarah’s mother was fast turning into every boyfriend’s nightmare, I was literally holding the smoking gun in this case. Sarah could return any minute to find her childhood pet with half its skull blown out over her backyard. This was seriously deep shit.
The Ute wouldn’t fit around the barn and into the house paddock and the farm bike was of little help. I couldn’t attach a rope to what was left of Bessie's head and I was dubious about weather or not a rope would hold onto Bessie’s tail. In actual fact the rope held onto Bessie’s tail a lot better than the Tail held onto Bessie. This might sound revolting but it gave me the closest thing to a good idea I had had since the first shot rang out. I couldn’t move Bessie all in one go, but perhaps...
I had only seen a carcass of this magnitude shifted once before. Two weeks ago the neighbouring farm had a bullock lodged in a drainage ditch. Apparently the stupid thing had wondered in searching for a drink, lost its footing and drowned. The farmer, who actually had knowledge and experience, shifted the corpse using ingenuity, well ingenuity and half a stick of gelignite. Unfortunately I didn’t have half a stick of gelignite. All I had was a growing sense of apprehension, a fast approaching deadline and… a chainsaw!
Finally I had some practical knowledge to bring to the farm, I had seen enough horror films depicting chainsaw massacres to make this a snap. Within ten minutes I had Bessie whittled down to bite-sized pieces and loaded onto the Ute. I hosed whatever was too soggy to be towed into the creek and fled the scene. I didn’t have enough time left to dig a grave for Bessie as promised. It seemed like Bessie wouldn’t be able to spend eternity buried in a shady glen by a rippling stream, what was left of the cow would rot quietly on the council tip.
I flung the Ute back home through the gates with relief; the station wagon wasn’t back yet. The only task I had left was to counterfeit a sacred resting-place. I mounted a small sandstone boulder at the agreed site over Bessie’s last mortal remains: her tail carelessly left behind on the tip run. A final touch, a few wildflowers and now the only thing I could do would be to fake sincerity when Sarah returned.
As duly promised Sarah came home at four and made a sorrowful beeline down to the creek-bed. I lovingly took her hand in mine, looked into her eyes and lied. I spoke of Bessie’s final journey as she looked over dewed paddocks under a blue sky. When I spoke of Bessie resting in eternal slumber I never mentioned the three and a half foot long beef drumsticks on the rubbish tip. I don’t think she would have thanked me if I had.