The great bovine penis debate

A couple of weeks ago, my wife took the boys to a free dairy farm event. I didn’t go, because I had to work, and also because when I was a child I got to go to a free dairy farm event every day. It was called chores.

After the event, my wife called me to tell me about it. Big Brother and Big Man had each taken a turn at milking a cow. Buster refused. “Do you know why he wouldn’t milk the cow?” she asked.

I can think of lots of reasons a boy wouldn’t want to milk a cow. When I was Buster’s age, I didn’t want to milk cows either. Unlike me, Buster had a choice.

I started through my litany of reasons: It’s not really that fun; you can get kicked; fresh, warm milk isn’t very enticing, unless you’re a barn cat . . .

Sensing I was going off on the wrong track, my wife stopped me. “He wouldn’t milk the cow because he said the milk was coming out of its penis.”

She tried to explain to him that cows don’t have penises and that the milk came from the teats, but he wouldn’t be persuaded. I’m not sure I blame him. For a six-year-old boy, penis talk is old news, but having your mom discuss teats with you can shut your mind right down.

If he truly believed it was the cow’s penis, I applaud his decision not to tug on it.

Nothing for me, thanks.

“I don’t care what your brother told you, you’re not leaving this pen until you eat your breakfast!”

One morning, about a week later, I’d given the boys some cereal and gone to put some clothes in the washer. I was summoned from the laundry room by a loud argument. In the dining room, Big Man and Buster were hotly debating the origin of milk. Buster was trying to convince his little brother that milk comes from a cow’s penis.

This did not bode well for the continued consumption of their cereal, so I intervened.

“Cows are girls, so they don’t have penises,” I explained. I believe this generalization is still valid in regard to the four-legged world. “And besides that, have you ever known of any animal that had four penises?”

“Yeah,” Buster replied. “A cow.”

“They’re not penises,” I reiterated. “They’re teats. That’s why milk comes out instead of pee.”

“Yeah, they’re teats!” Big Man, the younger but more reasonable brother, backed me up. “Cows have teats!”

I didn’t know if we convinced Buster, but at least I was confident he wouldn’t scare Big Man away from his Cap’n Crunch. I went back to the laundry before the neighbors overheard me shouting anatomical terms at my children.

I heard the patter of little feet follow me. Big Man entered the laundry room. My little font of scientific reasoning gazed up at me, his face bright with sacred knowledge. “And you know what else? Girls don’t poop!”

So there’s that.

Belief

“It’s hard to know what to believe anymore.”

*Photos: Ben Shahn/US Farm Security Administration

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Conversations with my wife: Early birds

If it’s not the skunks, it’s the birds. None of God’s creatures wants us to get a good night’s rest.

I’ve mentioned before how we have a thriving skunk community in our neighborhood. They like to offer their perfumes to us in the night. If you’ve ever shared property with skunks, you know they can jolt you out of a stone dead sleep without saying a word.

The skunks come around from time to time, but in summer, the birds are out every morning. I have no problem with the birds. I’m a country boy; their joyful chirping doesn’t bother me. My wife, who is not a country boy, is driven up the wall by their chatter. By the laws of marriage (“for better or worse, richer or poorer, through plagues of birds, etc.”) this makes the birds my problem.

Every morning, not long after sunrise, the birds wake my wife, who reacts by closing the windows in our bedroom. Country boys are not accustomed to the noise of windows being closed on a pleasant June morning. Consequently, this wakes me up.

“Close the window if you don’t want to hear the morning announcements!”

 

WIFE: Sorry to wake you, but those birds are at it again.

ME: They’re just letting you know , “It’s morning time!”

WIFE: Could they whisper it? Or maybe wait until 7 o’clock? Let’s just leave the windows closed all night.

ME: It gets too hot in here. I’d likely be a wreck every morning.

WIFE: Let’s risk it.

ME: You know, some people buy recordings of birds singing to relax them.

WIFE: Singing? They call that singing? It sounds more like a brawl.

ME: Do you also hate the sound of a gentle rain?

WIFE: I swear, one of them is about to pull a knife.

ME: What about the ocean surf?

WIFE: The ocean is fine. It’s all one constant noise, not all these different notes and pitches these birds have.

ME: So if we could get more birds, and their noises all blended together . . .

WIFE: Have you ever heard bickering that blended together?

Not in our house, I haven’t. Wife wins that round.

If young animals whined like human children

Zebra Mom: “Eat your grass, Jimmy.”

Zebra Kid: “I don’t like this grass. I like that grass over there.”

Zebra Mom: “There’s a lion over there.”

Zebra Kid: “Can you ask him to move.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking a lion to move so you can have grass that’s exactly the same as this grass.”

Zebra Kid: “Just ask him.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking. This is the same grass. Just eat it.”

Zebra Kid: “His grass is in the shade. I don’t like this sunny grass. It’s too hot.”

The grass is always tastier on the other side of the lion.

Zebra Mom: “How would you know? You haven’t even tried it.”

Zebra Kid: “Come on, Mom! Can you just please ask him. He’s not even eating grass.”

Zebra Mom: “If you don’t start eating, so help me God!”

Zebra Kid puts the tip of his tongue on one blade of grass: “This grass is way too dry. It’s like desert grass. You expect me to eat desert grass? Aw, man! Now I need a drink. I’m going to the watering hole.”

Zebra Mom: “You stay right here. There are crocodiles at the watering hole.”

Zebra Kid: “Ack. Ack. This dry grass is burning a hole in my throat. I’ll die if I don’t get a drink fast. Oh, there’s Dad. I’m gonna tell him what you’re doing to me.”

Zebra Mom: “Be sure to show him the hole in your throat.”

Zebra Kid approaches Zebra Dad: “Dad, can I go to the watering hole?”

Zebra Dad: “What did your mother say?”

Zebra Kid: “Nothing really. I think it’s okay with her if you let me go.”

Zebra Dad: “Oh. Okay then.”

FIVE MINUTES LATER

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, eat your zebra.”

Crocodile Kid: “I don’t like zebra. I want gazelle.”

Crocodile Mom: “It’s all mammal. It tastes the same. Carcass is carcass. Now eat it.”

Crocodile Kid: “This one has stuff on it.”

Crocodile Mom: “What stuff?”

Crocodile Kid: “Look. It has all these black lines.”

Crocodile Mom: “All zebras have black lines. It’s just how they’re seasoned. You won’t even taste it.”

Crocodile Kid: “It’s disgusting. I can’t eat that. It makes me wanna hurl just looking at it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Eat around the black lines then. You’d better eat it before it gets cold. It’s not gonna be any good cold.”

Crocodile Kid: “The lines are touching all the other parts. Their gross juice is gonna be all over everything.”

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, there are starving crocodile children in the next water hole who would give anything to have food half this good.”

Crocodile Kid: “They can have it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Don’t you dare come to me in an hour and tell me you’re hungry.”

TWO MINUTES LATER

Vulture Dad: “I can’t believe somebody just left all this delicious carrion here. Animals are so wasteful these days. Well, they’re loss is our gain. Dig in, Judy.”

Vulture Kid: “Um. You know I don’t like the kind with the white stripes.”

The three words that best describe you are Stink, Stank, Stunk

Conventional wisdom says wildlife is the innocent victim when people move into the swamps. The animals in our neck of the swamp couldn’t be happier that such a generous species came and built houses for them to live under.

Here comes trouble

Doesn’t matter the season, these guys are always ready to drop in.

The deer love our gardens. Our bird feeders save the squirrels untold time and effort finding 18 square meals per day. The “Little Man who lives under the porch” (probably a woodchuck, though ethnic origins shouldn’t matter) burrows himself into our hospitality often. Field Mice have bunked with our accommodating cat.

life in the suburbs

Then there was this guy, who took a four-hour nap in our back yard last fall.

In February, a skunk set up housekeeping under our deck. We’ve entertained skunks before, but this one was special. Every night it would light up our house with the tangiest batch of squeezin’s we’d ever breathed.

Having repelled its kind before with ammonia-soaked rags, this was our first defense. But when it is 0°F (-18°C) outside, ammonia does more freezing than stinking. Skunks stink grandly at any temperature.

It got so bad it kept us up all night, and some of us puked. My wife claimed it was making her uterus contract, which seemed a stretch, but maybe not.

Animal Control would attempt to trap the skunk for many bags of gold, but for some reason they didn’t feel confident of success. They said it was probably a female, attracting a mate.

That tore it.

It’s one thing to be smoked out of your home by some poor creature protecting herself, but we run a respectable household. She could do her whorin’ elsewhere. We weren’t about to stand idle while Pepina Le Pew advertised booty calls with her Love Potion Number Noxious.

le pew

Get your girl, Pepe, or you’re gonna find your brood a little larger than you bargained for. (Warner Bros.)

My wife had the first whack. “I went out with a baseball bat, but she wasn’t there,” she said.

“You realize you could have got sprayed?” I asked.

Her voice was monotone, the cold, murderous voice of exhaustion. “Yeah, but she’d be dead. It’d be so worth it.”

I bought stuff skunks dislike and air freshener. Lots of air freshener. All the different brands.

I tied dryer bags of Stank Skank’s least favorite things all around the deck. (The air freshener was for us.) My fingers were good and numb by the end, but that was a small price. We put as much noise and light on the area as we could.

It seemed to get her out from under the deck, but lonely boys with time on their hands still came looking for a little stinking tenderness at night. Periodic whiffs of her jilted lovers’ agonies sent us spiraling into Post Traumatic Skunk Disorder.

We built a snow berm around the deck to make it harder to use as a kiosk for their scented love notes. With the help of used kitty litter we seem to be making progress. The attacks are fewer, but I won’t declare victory until we can invite company into our house again.

snow fortress

The arrival of March means our snow fortress is melting. I hope this doesn’t mean a pick up in business for the brothel.

And my wife’s uterus? Someone explained it this way: She was smelling the pheromones of the dominant female in heat. Her body was syncing itself to that lead.

I was a little surprised at how easily my wife rolled over for a skunk. But I felt better when I recalled that she was about to go get her Alpha crown back with a baseball bat. Now that’s my girl.