Baxter Black: The mad cow escape

It’s more than six hours from Sierraville to Modesto, Calif., and the packinghouse.

Karl had put together a load of cull cows. While unloading, a bony gummer mama cow who looked like a ragged shag carpet hanging over a sawhorse, balked, backed up, and fell between the chute and the truck.

Karl leaped after the critter shouting profanities. Ever Ready, as we’ll call the cow, turned, charged and put him under the trailer. Evaluating his predicament, Karl dialed the nearby sale barn requesting assistance and to bring a rifle. Ever Ready wheeled and took off.

She raced past the beef packinghouse, the tallow works, the hog plant, and the hide plant, scattering a pack of smokers on a break. She hit the Stanislaw River and swam it like a porpoise, climbing out on the other side onto the golf course.

By the time the sale barn pickup found Karl, crossed the bridge, and swerved out onto the golf course, E.R. was chasing and menacing a foursome of retired bankers who had already downed half a fifth.

Karl was leaning out of the sale barn pickup window, wielding a rifle when a deputy sheriff with lights and a siren blaring forbade him to shoot the cow.

“Against the law in the city limits,” he explained, “Animal control is on the way with a tranquilizer gun.”

In the meantime, 12 police cars had converged on the back nine.

Animal control arrived with the tranquilizer gun just as the police sergeant drove up. He said it was too dangerous to fire at the cow, what with there being an apartment complex just across the street. They must wait for the Swat Team who had a designated shooter, he said.

In a stroke of professional genius, the expected shooter made a quick analysis and, taking a page from the Modesto Rodeo, commandeered four patrol cars to chase the cow across a big par 5 as hazers, while he raced behind like a bulldogger to get close enough to bring her down. It was at that moment that Channel 3 arrived and joined the chase.

At 10 p.m., in an all-night café, Karl was ordering a turkey and cheese sandwich to go with his antacids and stool softener. The television behind the counter was playing and the story of the great cow escape came on.

Karl and the waitress watched the wild-looking cow running at full speed across a broad expanse of fairway being chased by, what appeared to be, the start of the Indy 500.

“Can you believe someone is dumb enough to let their cows out on the golf course?” she said.

Karl popped a Tums and said, “Yup, it’s unbelievable.”

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