Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cow Poetry

One of my very favorite books is "One Man's Meat" by E.B. White. It's "a personal record of life on a Maine coast salt water farm." Here is a passage, filled with charm and poetry, that has stuck with me for many years:
"A friend of mine has an electric fence round a piece of his land, and keeps two cows there. I asked him one day how he liked his fence and whether it cost much to operate. 'Doesn't cost a damn thing,' he replied. 'As soon as the battery ran down I unhooked it and never put it back. That strand of fence wire is as dead as a piece of string, but the cow don't go within ten feet of it. They learned their lesson the first few days.'

Apparently this state of affairs is general throughout the United
States. Thousands of cows are living in fear of a strand of wire which no
longer has the power to confine them. Freedom is theirs for the asking. Rise
up, cows! Take your liberty while despots snore. And rise up too, all people
in bondage everywhere! The wire is dead, the trick is exhausted. Come on
Cartoon from Gary Larson, The Far Side


Farmgirl Paints said...

Well that's just interesting. It makes since. I think those underwire fences for dogs are the same way. The behavior is learned, so in essence we need to unlearn our previous behavior to break free from what we think is imprisoning us...deep stuff:)

Paul said...

Thanks for putting this quote up. I read this piece years ago, and the story of the cows and the dead fences has come back to me again and again. However, I have several volumes of E.B. White's essays on my shelf and never could find this one when I wanted it. I don't suppose you remember which essay this is from?

Paul Bennett

farmhouse wares said...

Paul, the essay is "Poetry" found in One Man's Meat. Hope you find it so you can enjoy it again.

Paul Bennett said...

I do have One Man's Meat and in the past have looked through the contents to see if I could find this essay. It wouldn't have occurred to me to look in "Poetry" for the cow story. Thanks so much for pointing me to it.