About two weeks ago was the annual beginning of what is commonly dubbed “The Plague”, an unspecified illness that inevitably manages to knock out half the school. Luckily, my roommate, K, and I have pretty ironclad immune systems, so we were both feeling fine. One of our friends, N, however, always seemed to be the first to succumb to whatever’s going around, so when she came into our room at 3:30 on a Tuesday morning, asking K to sub for her job --AM barn head-- it wasn’t all that surprising. The only catch: N was supposed to bring in the cows from the field that morning and K had never done it before and was reluctant to do it on her own. So I offered to go with her to bring them in. That being settled, we set our alarms for 5:10 and N went back downstairs to try and sleep for a few hours. I finally managed to get back to sleep myself and then my phone went off. Time for barn.
I pull on my barn jeans which I’d kept from a year and a half ago when I had barn (you never know when you’re going to need them again) and a sweatshirt, grab my glasses and a flashlight; we’re ready in 2 minutes flat. We climb up Noyes hill and head towards the barn, the sun barely beginning to rise. “Oh nice”, I think, “at least I get to watch the sunrise.” We stop at the barn long enough to flick on the lights and grab The Stick (used to slap the cows if they won’t move) and start off towards the pastures.
The problems begin when we get to the top of the pasture and realize that we keep thinking the trees are cows. Visibility was going to be an issue. Issue two: where to look? The cows could either be down back towards Noyes or in the opposite direction near Gray House. We can’t see them from here, but for the sake of certainty, I suggest that we double-check the Noyes field before taking the longer walk to Gray House. K agrees and we jog down the path. (FYI: getting from one field to another takes a while—way longer than you would think.) No cows. Okay, fine; they must be by Gray House. We turn around and walk up the other way, straining our eyes for any movements in the distance. Nothing. At this point we’re getting a little worried. We check the time (5:35, we’ve been looking for about 15 minutes now) and keep going. A little while later, a sighting! (Wait, are you sure they aren’t bushes? No, they’re definitely breathing!)
We duck under the electric fence and find ourselves looking at about 8 cows. Where are the other 30? We get those moving and see the two milkers on their way to the barn from Gray House. They have to have passed the other cows on the way. “Have you seen the other cows?” “Nope.” At this point we’ve passed worry and have moved on to incredulousness. Where are they?! They can’t have disappeared into thin air! It’s 5:45 now and we have a quarter of the herd. We send the cows to the barn with the milkers and consider our next actions.
Shortly after we have a moment of triumph thinking we’ve found them, but it turns out to be the horses. Frustrated, we debate going back to the barn without the rest of the herd but I’m reluctant and K points out that we haven’t looked further up the field yet, they have to be over there. We climb up the path to the top of the field and look over the mountains. The sun has risen by now, but still we find nothing. Not a single living thing. It’s 6:00 and there’s nothing to do but go back to the barn and tell the Farm Manager that they must have been abducted by aliens or something. The whole walk back we go over again and again where they could possibly be. (Pete didn’t keep them in to trim their hooves, right?)
Suddenly we see the last few cows trailing into the barn, the rest already hitched up and being milked. We run through the doors, flabbergasted. Where on earth did they come from? The clock reads 6:12. We have literally been looking for them for an hour and here they are. We go through the rest of barn in a bit of a daze, looking for some sort of explanation. There was no way we had overlooked them, we had searched everywhere.
By the time we got back to the dorm for a shower, the best we could come up with was that a couple of the cow-shaped bushes right at the top of the first hill were actually about 30 cows and they just walked themselves down while we were looking near Gray House. Go figure.