From The Rise and Fall of the Mustache, and other “Hawk-eyetems,” by Robert J. Burdette, illustrated by R. W. Wallis; Burlington Publishing Company, Burlington, Iowa; 1877; pp. 64-66.
MR. FORBES is a nervous man, and it is not surprising that when Mrs. Forbes told him the cow had got out at the front gate, he was so startled and annoyed that he made some disjointed allusions to the scene of General Newton’s dynamite explosions. When he went out the cow was standing very quietly in the street, just in front of the gate, chewing her cud, best navy, and looking as though she were trying to think of something mean to say. Mr. Forbes got around in front of her, raised both his hands above his head, and, extending his arms, waved them slowly up and down, at the same time ejaculating, “Shoo! shoo, there, I say! Shoo!” The cow turned her cud over to the other side, and gazed at the apparition in some astonishment, and then began to back away and maneuver to get around it. It is a remarkable fact, which we have never heard Prof. Huxley explain, that a cow is perfectly willing to go in any direction save the one in which you attempt to drive her. When the cow began to back, Mr. Forbes slowed up with his arms and assumed a more coaxing tone. When the cow started to make a flank movement off to the right, Mr. Forbes kept in front of her by sidling across in the same direction, at the same time raising his voice and accelerating the movement of his arms. When the cow made several cautious diversions and reconnoissances this way and that, Mr. Forbes was compelled to keep up a kind of Chinese cotillon, dancing to and fro across the road, keeping time with his shuffling feet and
waving hands, and the children on their way to school gathered in little groups on the sidewalk and viewed the spectacle with great interest, alternately cheering the cow and encouraging Mr. Forbes, as one side or the other would gain a little advantage. When the cow would make a short, determined rush, causing Mr. Forbes to scuttle across the street, in a perfect whirlwind of dust and sticks and a rattling volley of “Hi! hoo-y! shoo, there! hoo-y!” the enthusiasm of the audience was unbounded. Once, Mr. Forbes got the cow fairly cornered and headed her right into the gate, but just as the gray light of victory fell upon his uplifted face, Mrs. Forbes and the hired girl came charging out in mad pursuit of a flock of geese that had taken advantage of the open gate to stroll in and have a nip at the house plants on the back porch. Squacking, whooping, and screaming, the flying geese and the pursuing column came out like a runaway edition of chaos, and the cow gave a snort of terror and turned short upon Mr. Forbes, who tossed his hands more wildly and shouted more vociferously than ever, and got out of the way with neatness and dispatch, just as the cow went by with the swiftness of a golden opportunity or a vagrant thought. Mr. Forbes’ blood was up, and he was bound to head off that cow if it was in the power of man. Spurred to intense energy, by the derisive shouts of the children, he bent his head and picked up his flying feet. They got a pretty fair sendoff, Mr. Forbes and the cow, and as they swept up the street, they could look into each other’s eyes and glare defiance while they spurned the dust with flying feet. Mr. Forbes ran until his eyes seemed bursting out of his head and his very soul seemed to be in his legs; the perspiration started out of every pore; every time he struck the ground with his foot he thought he felt the
earth shake, and yet, though he tugged and sweat and strained until all the landscape was yellow before his blood-shot eyes, he couldn’t gain a hair’s breadth on the shambling, awkward cow that went sprawling and kicking along by his side, filling the soft September air with such a wild, tumultuous, horrible jangling of bells that Forbes made up his mind to throw the bell away the moment he get the cow home. The people on the streets stopped and waved their hats and cheered enthusiastically as the procession swept past, ladies leaned out of the windows and smiled sweetly on the man and cow alike. Once Forbes stumbled over a crossing and had to take strides twenty-three feet long for the next half block to keep from falling, and he was sure he was split clear up to the chin and would have to button his trousers around his neck forever afterward, but he wouldn’t give in to a cow if he died for it. At the next corner the cow turned off down a side street; Forbes shot across the sidewalk for a short cut, and the next instant he went crashing half way through a latticed tree box. A street car driver stopped his car and assisted Mr. Forbes to a sitting posture, leaned him up against a fence and went on with his train. And as Mr. Forbes sat in a dazed kind of way, mechanically rubbing the dust and dirt off his coat and pinning up long gashes and grimly grinning apertures in his clothes, there came to his ears the distant tinkle tankle of a far away cow bell, the mellowed sound rising and falling in tender cadences, with a dreamy, swaying melody, as though the bell was somewhere over in the adjoining county, and the cow that wore it was waltzing along over a country road a thousand miles a minute.