Miss Betsy – (day 8)


Patti Larsen

The final abduction left Miss Betsy a changed cow.

            One would never know to look at her.  She was a standard dairy Holstein, lovely white with black spots, wide ears that swayed when sounds caught her attention, soft muzzle so well designed to crop grass and munch grain.  Her long, narrow tail did the usual job of most such appendages, swishing the odd annoying fly with a soft slap.  She had a wonderful pattern on her sides that reminded most folks who admired her of Australia, but Miss Betsy didn’t pay any attention.  She was a cow, after all, with bovine goals, hopes and dreams.  Those being food, sleep and, well, the other things mammals do who aren’t particularly bright or challenged to come up with something witty to say.

            The first time she was taken, Miss Betsy mooed in surprise as the dark disk settled above her, blocking the light of the moon.  She was accustomed to her daily routine of breakfast followed by milking, followed by a snack and a wander around the front twenty, followed by a drink at the watering tub followed by more grazing, et cetera.  She was unprepared as any common cow would be for what followed.  The bright green light lifted her into the sky from her safe and familiar nighttime place in the back pasture. 

            She took it like a trooper, however.  And though she remembered little of that first abduction, when she was deposited right back where she had left with the sun rising in the east, she was comfortable enough with the experience that she wasn’t even put off her milk.  As a matter of fact, Mr. Wilson’s youngest daughter, Abigail, whose job it was to relieve Miss Betsy of her morning deposit, commented to her father how she seemed to be even more productive than usual.

            “Should check her numbers,” Abigail snuffled back some snot, her allergies acting up again.

            Mr. Wilson just smiled and nodded, pacing on down the line of cows as Abigail’s sisters, six in all, went to work on their own bovine charges.  There were, in fact, eight Wilson girls but Betty Lynn hated the organic dairy and fled to the city to marry that lawyer and only came home for Christmas.

            The very next dawning, when Miss Betsy came back from the second abduction, she started noticing things.  Like how she liked the taste of the grass near the water tub better than over in the corner near the house.  The way that Abigail always warmed her hands before touching her but Louise, her evening milker and daughter number three, never did.  Or the way Mrs. Wilson’s singing out the back window made her ears flicker more than usual. 

            Maybe that horrible noise had something to do with the taste of the grass.

            When Miss Betsy came home the third time, she knew what time was.  She understood that the sunrise meant she needed to go to the barn, but not by habit or instinct.  She knew.  Unwilling to stroll along behind her fellows any longer, Miss Betsy was the first at the barn door that warm summer morning.  Abigail noticed, even through her itching, watery eyes.

            “Something’s up with her,” she tried to tell Mr. Wilson.  But he was too busy with the new contract with the local grocery to pay any mind.  Organic was turning into a booming business and Mr. Wilson was feeling vindicated after years of behind-hands laughter from his more traditional neighbors.  Never mind that Mr. Wilson had moved his whole family to the farm from New York City ten years before with no idea what a cow even was and just a dream. 

            Miss Betsy welcomed the nightly visits and even started paying attention to what was going on around her on the ship.  The small, gray people were very nice, feeding her tasty treats she didn’t recognize, patting her firm, smooth sides and avoiding the swish of her tail.  They even had a magic chute that seemed to know when the fresh green grass from the front pasture had made it all the way through her four stomachs and hissed open just as her tail moved aside, whisking away the deposit to places unknown.

            Miss Betsy realized she could talk when Abigail forgot for the first time ever to warm her hands.

            “I wasn’t expecting that from you of all people,” she said.  “Louise, yes.  She’s so thoughtless when it comes to things like this.  But you, Abigail?”

            Abigail, meanwhile, was staring at her with her mouth wide open.  It wasn’t until Miss Betsy finished up and marveled at how eloquently she had made her point that the girl managed to yell for her father.

            He was skeptical, as were the other six Wilson girls who left their own charges to check just in case. After all, seeing a talking cow would be just about as fun as hearing Mr. Wilson give Abigail what for.

            “Do you mind?” Miss Betsy asked as daughter number two bumped into her right side.  “Watch your step, if you please, TammyJo.”

            The offending party’s gum made a splat in the mess the previous cow had left behind. 

            “Just as well,” Miss Betsy told her over her shoulder, tail flicking in annoyance.  “You look like one of the ladies chomping away on that stuff all day.”

            Miss Betsy was offended that they retreated to huddle in the corner of the dairy and whisper about her.  How rude.

            It was Abigail who approached her at last.  She was wiping her running nose on her sleeve, her big green rubber boots making squelching noises on the wet cement.

            “Miss Betsy?”  Abigail said.

            “Yes, dear?”  She replied.

            “Sorry my hands were cold,” the girl said.

            “Forgiven,” Miss Betsy told her.  “Now, if you don’t mind, can we finish up? I’m about to burst over here.”
            One wouldn’t think that life could go back to normal after such an incident.  Even Mrs. Wilson got used to it, however, saying, “As long as she’s still producing, I don’t see the harm in it.”

            And there wasn’t any harm, as far as Miss Betsy was concerned.  That is, until the next-door neighbor got wind when he took Mary Jane, daughter number four, out to dinner.

            “Heard you got yourselves a talking cow,” he said, inspecting Miss Betsy.  Mr. Wilson didn’t really like having Dan Patters over.  He was the organic dairy’s main nay-sayer.  In fact, had Mr. Wilson known that Mary Jane was going to jump the fence and date the man, he would have locked her up in the storm cellar.

            The damage was done so Mr. Wilson made the best of it.

            “Seems so,” he admitted.  “Still producing, though.”

            “I should think so,” Miss Betsy agreed.  “You feed me enough.”

            She had never seen a person so startled or run so very fast, especially in rubber boots.

            That night, when Miss Betsy went for her visit upstairs, she sensed something was different.  The pats she got were sad ones, the food offered with regret.  By the time the green light settled her back in her pasture, Miss Betsy understood there would be no further visits.  Her new friends were saying goodbye.

            They did have a job for her, though.  They entrusted her with a message, a very important, world-altering message.  And it wasn’t long before her sadness was forgotten. 

As it turned out, new friends weren’t much of a problem for Miss Betsy.  That very morning, a whole heaping pile of folks who wanted to get to know her showed up on the farm and all of a sudden, she was a star.  At least, that was what Abigail told her when she came to get her and lead her to the jumble of cars in the driveway.

            “Guess you’re famous now,” Abigail picked at the acne on her right cheek as she smiled at Miss Betsy.  “Don’t forget me or nothing, okay?”

            “Dear,” Miss Betsy told her, “I still need to be milked.  And you’re my first choice for doing it.”

            Abigail beamed at her.

            Everyone wanted to ask her questions all at once.  Miss Betsy waited by the barbed wire fence as they babbled at her, some holding out microphones, others with cameras pointed at her.  The flashes were most annoying.  She took it all with great patience and aplomb.  She was, after all, there for a reason.

            “I have a message to share with you,” she told them.  “Something everyone on Earth needs to hear.  But not yet.” She heard their groan of complaint.  “There is a time and a place for everything.  In two nights, on this very farm and in this very field, I will share with you the reason for my being.  And the reason for yours as well.”

            And then, Miss Betsy turned and ambled back toward the barn.  She had eating to do.

            That night, it was Abigail who did the milking and she had big news.

            “Betty Lynn and that husband of hers are coming,” she told the cow, pulling a little harder than was necessary.  Miss Betsy let it go.

            “Whyever for?”  Miss Betsy asked, chewing some cud.  “All they need to do is watch the announcement on TV.”

            “Guess they wanted to be here personal,” Abigail belched.  Miss Betsy smelled eggs and bacon.

            Did they ever.  The big black car that screamed money pulled in lickety-split and Betty Lynn came roaring out, crying for Mrs. Wilson who flew out the front door and hugged her absentee daughter.  Smiley Slimer, as Mr. Wilson liked to call Simon Silmore, his lawyerly son-in-law, oozed from the front seat and shook everyone’s hands, even Abigail’s and she hadn’t yet washed them after milking.

            “Heard all about it,” Smiley winked at Mr. Wilson.  “Need someone here to help with the media.  I’m your man, yes siree Bob’s your uncle.”

            “What help?” Mr. Wilson asked, confused.

            “Oh Daddy,” Betty Lou said, “don’t be so silly.  Just think of the possibilities.”

            They made Miss Betsy nervous, standing there in the front yard, that Smiley giving her the once over with his narrowed eyes, being careful where to step in his expensive shoes.

            “There’s money to be made, of course,” Smiley smiled and winked again, this time at Miss Betsy.  “And we need to be sure we make it.”

            No longer interested in such trivia, Miss Betsy wandered off.  Her goals were much more grand, her message one of peace and kindness.  Let them make money.  She was prepared to make history.

            She was shocked to be locked in the barn for the night. Abigail apologized but still slid the padlock closed and left her there alone.  Miss Betsy was furious.  It had to be that damned lawyer.  She had no intention of staying indoors all night until the sky opened up and it started to rain.  Instead of kicking up a fuss, she decided it wasn’t so bad and settled down for a cud-chewing nap.

            At first when she heard someone at the barn door, she thought it was her little friends coming to find her.  But when the snick of bolt cutters severed the lock, she realized her error.  Not so, gray ones.  Instead, it was Dan Patters of all people.  She eyed him as he approached her with a halter and rope.

            “Nice cow,” he said to her, voice low and supposed to be soothing, she guessed.  “Nice girl.  Just going to put this on you, okay?  Easy does it now.”

            By then he was standing next to her.  His eyes were huge, his hands shaking.  He smelled like stale beer and that stinky weed Florence (daughter number one) grew, that sometimes made Miss Betsy feel like she was flying when she ate it.  It was obvious to her he was up to no good, so she decided to protest.
            “Just what do you think you’re doing, young man?”  She asked.

            He flinched but was determined.  He put the rope halter over her head and pulled it tight.  “Come on now, girl,” he tugged on the other end.  “You’re going to a new home.”

            Miss Betsy was in no way an aggressive cow.  Quite the opposite.  Her gray friends had taught her that love and kindness were the way to go.  But, she had a streak in her, straight from her father, the Old Man, that Mr. Wilson was forced to get rid of because he was a nasty fellow who liked to pin the girls in the pasture.  So when Dan started pulling, she pulled back.  Stubborn, fair enough.  He tugged.  She flipped her head and told him what for.  It wasn’t until he pulled a fresh-peeled willow switch from his belt and gave her a wallop that Miss Betsy let her father’s temper see the light for real.

            When they were carting him away in the ambulance, after the fuss was all over and Abigail was soothing her with a handful of raisins, Dan Patters swore that Miss Betsy had used kung fu on him.

            Served him right.

            Of course, that stirred up some of the locals who complained Miss Betsy was dangerous, that she needed to be put down, a mad cow.  Then there were those that didn’t like the attention their town was getting, what with the helicopters and news vans and the giant portable stadium being set up.  They didn’t like that their streets were flooded with food stands and merchandise booths with Miss Betsy’s face on them or the influx of believers camped all over the place, even in people’s yards, pilgrims come to hear the holy word of cow.

            It got so bad that Mr. Wilson stopped watching the news, right after a good friend of Dan Patters (and so no friend of theirs), started accusing Mr. Wilson of running a non-organic organic dairy.  Even Betty Lynn walked soft around her father after that little false accusation.

            Miss Betsy took it all in stride.  Even when the big man in the army uniform drove up in the dark green Hummer with a van load of scientists in tow, demanding to examine her.  One blazing and convoluted denial from Smiley and his crack team of lawyers was enough to send them packing.

            Miss Betsy didn’t care much.  She had a message to deliver and she was not about to let anyone stop her.

            But when the Australian president tried to have her shipped to his continent because he and his squad of law makers announced that the markings on her side proved she was their property, Miss Betsy was forced to put her hoof down.

            “Enough!” She told the gathered media as the sun sank in the west on the day of her announcement.  “I have told you what you need to know.  Patience.  The time is coming.  In three hours you will have your answers.”

            They were, of course, less than satisfied with that but had no choice but to wait.

            Miss Betsy rested in her barn, waiting for the appointed time.  She was pleased when her door creaked and Abigail came inside.  The girl was smiling and she wasn’t alone. 

            “This here is Brandon,” she snuffled some mucus and beamed up at the tall, stunning man next to her with the polished white smile and perfect hair.

            “Hello, Miss Betsy,” Brandon’s voice was a velvet purr.  “Abigail was so nice to let me meet you in person.”
            “We’re getting hitched!” Abigail flashed a huge diamond ring.  “Brandon was the first one to ask in person.”
            “First one what, dear?”  Miss Betsy said.

            “Of men who wanted to marry me,” Abigail shrugged.  Then smiled, showing her crooked teeth and silver braces.  “Isn’t he gorgeous?”

            Miss Betsy didn’t comment, though her thoughts toward the misguided man were unkind.

            They left her alone.  She was just as glad.  Her time was short.  She was shocked, then, when she felt the familiar presence of her gray friends.  She was so happy to see them as three emerged from a narrow beam of green light and approached her.  Their pats and snacks were most welcome as she had been certain she would never see them again.

            She could tell they were pleased with her and didn’t hesitate when they offered her one last treat.  As she munched it, she watched them disappear into the beam of light, taking her newfound intelligence with them.                 

            No one noticed.  Not even Abigail, so wrapped up was she in her new romance.  When she came for Miss Betsy and the cow stared at her with a blank and very cow-like expression, Abigail thought nothing of it.  Miss Betsy went with her after some mental churning, falling back on habit.  After all, the girl was her milker and she was accustomed to doing what Abigail wanted.  There was a moment of confusion when Abigail went toward the fence line but Miss Betsy knew to trust her as she always had and followed obediently.

            It wasn’t until Abigail got her through the chute into the arena that Miss Betsy balked.  It took three of her new bodyguards to wrangle her into the center of the stadium, where the flashing bulbs and screams of believers spooked her so much she emptied her bowels onto the podium, took out the black-suited men with one toss of her head and bolted for home.

            She never knew anything of the aftermath.  The repercussions of her sudden return to the ordinary.  The accusations and lawsuits or that Smiley and the rest of the town took Mr. Wilson for all he was worth after the media vilified him and his entire family.  She didn’t know that Abigail ended up a drunken mess when her new fiancé dumped her after taking back the ring and telling her what he really thought of her.  Or of the sadness then fury of the crowd who had come to see her and the mess they left of the town.

            Miss Betsy only knew that she needed to eat, sleep and be milked.  So when Mr. Wilson came for her that fine summer morning and led her to the truck along with the rest of her sisters, she was in ignorant bliss.  When the truck left, she tried her best to keep her balance and chew her cud at the same time.  When she was off loaded from the truck into a dark and freezing place that smelled of fear and feces, she found concern, but plain, ordinary bovine concern, mirrored by that of the cows around her.

            It wasn’t until she was next in line, her sister before her fallen and gone, that Miss Betsy had a sudden and total reversal to the cow she had become.  In that instant before her untimely death at the hand of the slaughter house worker who would never know who she was, why she was there or how important she could have been to humanity, she came back to herself and whispered to him the message that she had been chosen to deliver.

            It wasn’t her fault he was deaf.


14 Responses to “Miss Betsy – (day 8)”

  1. Carrie Clevenger

    Huh, this was very different. Aliens and intelligent cows and the proverbial “forgot my pen” twist. I liked this!

    • Scott Larsen

      Going from being an ordinary cow to a Talking Martial Artist Cow, but when the fame is no longer worth something to others back to a hamburger…

  2. Icy Sedgwick

    Aw, I really liked Miss Betsy. I’m quite sad by the end. Still, makes a change from the aliens picking yokels or drunks.

  3. Patti Larsen

    Thanks Carrie! The first line of the story was the inspiration–it popped into my head…

    And Icy, I love Miss Besty, too… but I giggle every time I read the last line… sick? Maybe… and yes, enough with the rednecks getting abducted! Holsteins unite! LOL

  4. Scott Larsen

    Going from being an ordinary cow to a Talking Martial Artist Cow, but when the fame is no longer worth something to others back to a hamburger…

  5. Tony Noland

    There were more twists to this than a cow has stomachs!

  6. Wulfie

    Wow, now that’s a real twist on the 8 maids a milking! Refreshingly surprising.

  7. Jim Bronyaur

    Excellent!!! What a way to turn the whole eight maid a milkin thing into your own! 🙂

  8. Patti Larsen

    Thanks, guys! And Jim for the opportunity… 🙂

  9. Chuck Allen

    I love the story! So creative and fun to read!

  10. Cecilia Dominic

    The first line was great, and the rest of the story matched. Bravo for Miss Betsy!


  11. TEC4

    Fun story, if a little sad at the end … too bad she never got to give her message (I wonder what it would have been?)

  12. Susan May James

    A fun story, but like TEC4 and Icy, I felt sad at the end. Poor cow.
    Well written, nice voice.

  13. David G Shrock

    Great story. Little gray men and a cow, a fun combination.

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