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Cattle Farcy, by Sandy Parsons

Farmer Brown couldn’t abide a bumpy cow. So when some of Farmer Brown’s prize Holsteins came down with a case of cattle farcy he knew he needed to do something. Contained to the skin it wasn’t deadly, just inelegant, but it meant that less diligent farmers were allowing their diseased livestock to cross the border. What he needed was quarantine, but the world wasn’t big enough to hold all the people anymore, let alone the bovine lot. What Farmer Brown wanted was space. What he got was the moon.

It just so happened that Serendipity popped in on the cabinet meeting that Farmer Brown, lobbyist extraordinaire, attended on the fateful day that he pled his case. The military men had some new toys, and were itching to use them. The generals needed a reason to launch their rockets. The homeland security guy looked bored, but mostly because the moon wasn’t his jurisdiction. And the president, as usual, needed something to divert the public’s attention from his other interests.

“It’ll create thousands of jobs,” said the Secretary of Labor.

“A real boost for research,” added the Secretary of Education.

The EPA lady was privately envisioning an end to emails regarding cow farts, but aloud said, “Good idea, I’m on board.”

The real clincher came from the DoD guy regarding a fine little anti-missile setup just ripe for moon planting. “We’ve got a real concern about protecting this most important endeavor,” he said with a wink. “After all, cows have no natural defenses for the lunar environment. We can’t let them go it on their own.”

Someone started to argue but the president held up one hand, spreading out the plans for the lovely guns with the other. As the commander-in-chief caressed the tiny mockup of the big gun Farmer Brown knew he’d won.   Things got more difficult after that. A whole lot of scientists had to get briefed, and the engineers and soldiers too. Farmer Brown wasn’t exactly clear on why the soldiers were needed, only that the entire undertaking fell under the ball-bearing eyes of a certain General Tocsin. On their first encounter, Farmer Brown asked why the herd was being retrofitted with mini cannons.

“It’s a military undertaking, boy. Now tell me, do you think they can be trained to hold a gun in their paws?”

Everything after ‘boy’ was lost on Farmer Brown, which left petite Lt. Corgi, who had been nice enough to rub salve on the farcy with his tiny hands, to answer. “I believe they’re called hooves sir.”

“Whatever. Why’re you greasing ‘em up? The cannons are sliding to their undersides.”

Farmer Brown found his voice. “General, these are docile animals with a painful skin condition. Really all we need is a nice isolated pasture on a few hundred acres…”

Tocsin cut him off. “More like nine billions acres. Government’s gotta protect its investment. We need defenses. And you know the old saying; the best defense is a good offense. Now, let’s talk about those over there with the horns. Can they be filed to a sharper point?”

Things were coming along much better on the terraforming aspect. Nifty bacteria had been introduced to chew up the moon’s regolith, and a similarly fancy enzyme sped things along. The only setback was a byproduct of the process which turned the vegetation a sapphire hue. Well, thought Farmer Brown, there was bluegrass on Earth, wasn’t there?

The next item was preparing the herd for space travel. Farmer Brown assured the crew, time and over, that cows were free from the most common side effect of space travel: they couldn’t vomit into the snout-shaped oxygen masks made especially for them, courtesy of the US army. A more pressing problem was how to restrain them during liftoff. When Farmer Brown saw one report that stated conventional seatbelts were nixed because they ‘…would cause chafing of the udders’, he started to have misgivings about the entire plan. But a solution was discovered. Because of their girth, they could be restrained by use of slings, with their legs free to dangle during periods of acceleration. Upon final boarding Farmer Brown noticed that some of the slings were missing legs. To his great relief these were just cow-shaped missiles.

Finally, all that was left was to pack up his personal possessions. Farmer Brown’s passion was his cows, so aside from a fresh change of underwear all he packed was his music collection, Violin for Vaccimulgence in B, and an obstinately lazy tabby which only gained passage because he came from a long line of mousers.

The first months the weather was particularly bad. Farmer Brown was used to this, from his years on earth, and was happy to have a subject of conversation that didn’t include images of annihilation. The grass, though, to a blue blade, didn’t know it was supposed to grow back once it was eaten. Earth, awaiting patiently the fruits of the endeavor, received instead a decidedly uncryptic message, repeated frequently: ‘Send more hay’.

Farmer Brown had troubles aplenty of his own. The ‘miracle manure’ had evidently taken a liking to the starter microbes, because overnight the land turned into a lush, cerulean sea. But it stopped being lovely when the herd began sporting ultramarine coats. At first it was just a slight silvery tint to the fur, which Farmer Brown kind of liked. It gave them a sort of space-cow otherworldliness. Eventually the color began to deepen, with the eyes and the udders getting the most color. The effects were for the most part benign, with the exception of a certain Sgt. Spoon, who had taken to spending his days astride the saddle of the laser cannon, swinging it wildly at any stray movement. When Farmer Brown approached him, palms spread in supplication, the sergeant muttered something along the lines of blue makes me very angry, and Farmer Brown was forced to retreat.

But even the strangest of circumstances become commonplace over time, and Farmer Brown settled into a routine. The cows, being colorblind, adapted nicely, once the grass took root. The farcy healed, leaving smooth blue hides. He became accustomed to the azure-tinged silhouettes dotting the horizon. The tabby would twine about his legs as he suctioned the milking machine to the cobalt udders. It would seem that his bucolic (or perhaps blue-colic, he said with a wink to the tabby) life had begun.

But just as soon as he rested upon his laurels, disaster struck. The president had grown tired of waiting for a return on his investment, and the mooncow milk market had tapered off. He had no patience for farming, and what was worse the bovine lunar project was no longer front page news. He did what he had to. He ordered a contingent of reporters to pay a visit.

They came in droves, swarming under the chitinous shells of their equipment. General Tocsin, forewarned, sought refuge in a distant watchtower, while the naive Farmer Brown felt obliged to let the mob pass through. They teemed over the cerulean hills, crushing the delicate pastures and spooking the girls. Inevitably, they stumbled across Sgt Spoon and the laser cannon, napping peacefully in the afternoon sun. With the first flash of the cameras he was instantly alert, but unfortunately his keen military senses preceded him into consciousness. In mere seconds he was able to lay a serpentine swath of paparazzial obliteration, arcing through a full 360 degrees.

Microphones and flaming field jackets rained down upon the cows. They were just forming a stampede when a blazing FOX van landed smack in the middle of the conflagration. Startled into unison, they began peeling an arc across the lower atmosphere, each gaining altitude by applying pressure to its predecessor’s back. The defense satellites, while able to distinguish a large moving mass as a threat, but not smart enough to differentiate from which direction, reoriented their weapons and began to fire.

Miles away, General Tocsin was being updated. “We appear to have a situation, sir.”

“What we have,” Tocsin said, snapping his binoculars to his waist, “is steak.” He repositioned a stogie to one side of his mouth and added out of the other, “Correction. Blue steak.”

The diminutive Lt. Corgi followed the general’s line of sight and laughed.

Farmer Brown had seen enough. He shooed the fat tabby into its carrier and turned up the volume on his IPOD, currently playing Fiddling for Farmers. On his way to the launch pad he was almost run over by a satellite dish as it went spinning by, edge up, still sporting the larger portions of Sgt. Spoon.

The blue miasma lasted long enough that some people on earth had enough time to come up with a few tall tales about it.

———————

Sandy Parsons has degrees in Physics, Math, Biophysics and Medical Science. She works as an anesthetist in Georgia, where she lives with her family and plays video games, reads, and watches TV. And she writes.  Her work has been published in Tabard Inn, Amazing Journeys, Nth Degree and the anthology Unparalleled Journeys.

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