I heard a friend talking about our neighborhood once. He said, “That’s the only place I know where people build fences to keep the cows out instead of in.”
It is the truth. We live in a neighborhood with free range horses and cattle. We have lived there for several years now. Up until this last year the cows seemed to leave us alone.
Then something changed, it has been war ever since Christmas when they broke down the fence. It was great fun for our Australian Shepard who got to chase cows all day; not so much fun for us. That was just the beginning.
I have often wondered what the draw was to our yard. There are luscious yards all over the valley, ours looks like a woman with the black thumb of death gardens there. But they kept coming back and breaking in all spring and into summer.
My kids have often joked that this one big black steer was the ring leader of the cows. They even named him, Boss Cow. He always seemed like the first one in.
The boys were first out of the van. They were checking on the situation. I was sure that cow was underneath us because the van wouldn’t move. I looked around, there was steam pouring from the engine, and the battery light was on. The boys made a quick report - no cow.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since that huge old black steer’s back came up over the top of the hood of my gigantic 15 passenger van. He was big and strong - he was gone.
Now everyone is out of the van, the boys are running around pumped on adrenaline. The girls are screaming and crying. Mariah and Hannah were especially as they stared down the cow as it was hit and rolled up onto the windshield. I am pointing out that the battery light is on while trying to call my husband and take a picture to send him.
Some Good Samaritan neighbors had shown up to help. As it turns out the neighbors heard the crash while enjoying the evening on their back porch and called the fire department. They were now searching dutifully for the injured cow. Someone has got to find it and notify the owner.
My husband was an hour away at work so he sent our good family friends, Don and Steffani, to help. I tell Don all about how the battery light is on. Then I tell the Fire department and the Highway Patrol. Finally, Don kindly points out that the battery light is on because the cow moved the battery and the rest of the engine a good foot and squished it.
By now the adrenaline is wearing off and the pain is setting in. The EMTs are not plagued with a boring night at the station. Mariah seems the most injured - her neck and back are really hurting. They are strapping her down to a c-spine board as she entertains them as only Mariah can.
Just as we have an uncharacteristically large numbers of family members with ADHD we also have five of the six with a genetic disorder that makes for very loose, bendy joints called Ehlers Danlos.
There Mariah is on the back board and she flips her arm out backwards, like she does on a regular basis, and says, “do you think this is okay, I feel a little bit of pressure.” The EMT was freaked out for a moment until the firemen started laughing - they had encouraged this prank - silly firemen, Mariah does not need encouragement.
We were now a sprouting row of back boards in the field by the side of the road. Secured and taped down, just to be safe. The neighbors are still looking dutifully for the poor injured cow. They start to move us to the ambulances. I can’t say what the rides in the other ambulances were like but I was in the ambulance with Mariah.
Mark knew exactly which ambulance we were in as we arrived at the hospital because the paramedics got out of the truck laughing. She started out by reading the triage tag they had tied to each of. When our EMT got in and asked how we were doing Mariah was quick to point out it could be worse they could have tagged her with the black strip labeled morgue. It was all good with Mariah as long as there was no black tag.
She pointed out that this trip was an inconvenience since she was supposed to be sitting at home with her dog, eating Greek yogurt and granola, finding out the end of the third Indiana Jones movie. She mused that now she would never know if he finds the Holy Grail or not.
She wondered if it was just her or if anyone else was in the mood for a taco.
She went on to recommend that the ceiling was rather boring for someone strapped to a board, only capable looking straight up. She recommended an inspirational poster taped to the ambulance ceiling. Maybe a cute kitten dangling from a branch with text that reminded people to, "hang in there" or a beautiful ocean view with a breaching whale.
I finally told her she had to stop because laughing hurt so badly.
As it has turned out her injuries were the most severe and she is still struggling with whiplash pain.
Mark was being brave, visiting room to room, going with each of us to x-ray. Don was doing the same, visiting bedside to bedside checking on everyone, keeping everyone calm. It was early morning before we were out of the hospital emergency room. Steffani and another friend, Joey, were keeping those at home calm.
The big black steer was never found. I kind of wonder if our attentive neighbors have been enjoying some good BBQ on that back porch. Beef it's whats for dinner.
With some degree of sadness we said good bye to the Monster Van that had been so much a part of our lives for 7 years. That van had taken care of the mundane day to day running. That van had driven us to the ER for x-rays, ruptured ligaments, and more than one set of stitches. That van had taken us on adventures all over California and even all the way to Oregon for a family reunion.
As my husband Mark put it, in the end it did its job, that van kept us safe.