Can’t You Think Like a Cow? 1955


When I was a child, my parents recruited me to help them to move cattle from the open field into a lot near the barn.  This involved forcing one or more cows to enter through a narrow gate into the sorting lot.  Like so many things on the farm, I hated the job.

Our problem rested with the fact that although cows are not included in the list of the ten most intelligent animals according to “Animal Planet.”   Incidentally, the chimpanzee is the brightest.   However it is proven that cows have enough memory to recall former negative experiences. For them, the appearance of the confining feedlots meant one of several things to them. It might mean weaning (kidnapped) their babies that inevitably created a bawling storm that lasted for days.  It might mean being stuck (stabbed) with the sharp vaccination needles.  It might mean being fogged (suffocated) for grubs.  It might mean the grinding of the nerves (neurological abuse) as cattlemen removed head horns with hack saws, or a number of other negative experiences even far worse than those noted above.  I hated these experiences and tried to hide somewhere on the farm to avoid the activities.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but A Cow Will Drink!

Cattle remember pain.  Regardless of their limited mental processes, they never wanted to enter through that small gate leading to the sorting lot.  So farmers had to form a sort of fence created by three or four people to corral them toward the gate.  It never seemed to fail, the cows would submit to direction and then they would find the weakest link, would fake a movement in one direction and then slip right past me.  My mom got so aggravated with my ineptness that she cried, “Dang-it, Bobbie, can’t you think like a cow?”

I decided against becoming a farmer as soon as I had processed her observations.  Somehow, I thought my mind was worthy of higher pursuits than thinking like a cow.  In retrospect, incidents like this were fundamental in “Why I Am the Way I Am.”  I altered any idea that I might choose farming as a profession and began to look for another direction.

In retrospect, her teaching point served me in many ways.  You have to anticipate what is going to happen in order avoid both problems and danger.  A strong lesson from a simple point.

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One thought on “Can’t You Think Like a Cow? 1955

  1. Jim Gary October 15, 2012 at 8:44 am Reply

    Bob–enjoying your blog very much. You have probably incorporated much of this in a book manuscript–if not, certainly add it. Regards, Jim G.

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