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Steve Eaton: Outdoor test of bravery pits city boy against gang of country heavyweights

Published: Friday, Aug. 9 2013 4:09 p.m. MDT

Have you ever faced down an intimidating gang by yourself? I did and I didn't even have a fork.

, Richard Clark

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As I came into the clearing, I discovered they were waiting for me. Their icy stares showed me they meant business and this time I had none of my group to back me up.

At first, I tried to reason with them but there was no movement except for two of the bigger guys with pierced ears who were chewing gum or tobacco. I don’t think one of them weighed less than 500 pounds and I’m not ashamed to admit I was scared. This wasn’t my battle. I had not picked this fight.

Then it happened. Suddenly their eyes went wide as if a giant “Jurassic Park” thing had appeared behind me and they practically ran over themselves scrambling to get away. I found myself, of course, looking behind me, fearing that I might look like a plump attorney — and we know from the “Jurassic Park” movie that Tyrexasnorisis love to eat attorneys. But there were no dinosaurs there. They were afraid of me.

Now, I’ve never pretended to be a country boy. Other people would probably say that it was silly to have been afraid of a dozen cows but there are some common sense things I can’t ignore. First of all, they were not fenced in. I was hiking alone on something I later learned is called a “free range” which means cows are allowed to hide in the bushes and step on people who are alone if they so desire. They have a competitive edge.

The other so-called country “truth” I have a hard time accepting is this idea that bulls, if placed on a crowded street in Italy, will chase you but cows wouldn’t.

Also, if scarier animals like cougars, bears and wiener dogs can smell fear, what’s to say that cows wouldn’t instinctively recognize me as a consumer of many hamburgers? In the cow universe, I just might be the subject of many a campfire horror tale. I’m like Frankenstein only I sit down and eat my victims. Maybe they sense my history.

Put it this way, I don’t care how dim you are when I walk into a clearing, no one thinks, “Whoa, look at the size of that vegetarian!”

And I would also like point out that cows are big. If they decided to go step on me, it would be a very bad thing. I’ve always felt that when it comes to cows and horses, all it would take would be one bovine or horse to rally the others and we’d have a real life Stephen King horror novel about a sort of Tea Party for cows and horses. If that happened, I’d be first one they’d want to trample and throw into the river.

I was by myself because I had gone hiking with my wife, daughter and son-in-law. We had encountered the same cows on the way out but my slender daughter had just laughed and ran toward them flapping her arms. They ran away that time, too. I had wanted to go home at that point, fearing revenge, but my athletic daughter shamed me onward.

Eventually, as I huffed and puffed, clutching my chest, I realized that while they would not have any problems returning to our car during daylight hours, I would have to head back immediately or would find myself feeling my way through the great outdoors in darkness. Again, movies — which are usually based on true stories — have taught me that being outdoors in the dark by yourself is never a good idea, especially if they haven’t yet rolled the opening credits. For me, the danger is doubled because I’m told that when I run and scream like a little girl and run into trees, I look funny. I would not be the one battered guy who survives with the pretty girl at the end of the monster movie. I’d be the first to go.

So, I headed for the car before they did, completely forgetting about the gang of cows. After I so dominated the first encounter, however, I came across another group of cows at a point on the trail wide enough for just two cows or one of me. One of us would have to back up and the trail was narrow behind us in both directions. Cows do not impress me as critters that like to exercise, so I figured they’d just stampede right over me.

Before I could even start negotiating, however, they turned about and all began running down the trail in the opposite direction. I called out to them telling them I meant them no harm. I didn’t even have a fork with me. But there was no stopping them. They were beyond scared. I knew this not just by their panicked run down the trail but by the large reminders they left behind that added a whole new dimension to hiking a narrow trail at dusk.

Now, days later, as I think back on this, I have to admit there was part of me that liked being the intimidator. Just think — thousands of pounds of beef running like they were just one stumble away from becoming a barbecue.

Maybe I should go back and test my bravery one more time. Last time I left so fast in the car that I didn’t have time to enjoy the moment. Besides, my wife, daughter and son-in-law — if they’ve survived this long — might want a ride home.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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