Brilliant Betty

by D.A. Cairns

Betty stood calmly observing the comings and goings of her friends and others as they ambled from clump to clump, biting and chewing the green grass. Marvelous! Thought Betty to herself. That’s all they do. All day. Apart from swishing flies with their tails and dropping the occasional cow ‘bomb’ on the ground, they just walk around eating grass all day.

Trudging over towards the boundary fence, Betty wondered about the meaning of life. Heavy thinking for a cow, but Betty was no ordinary bovine. Betty was brilliant!

From her birth which had been quick and painless-from her point of view anyway-to her first taste of the heavenly sweetness of her mother’s milk, and her then asking for a bottle of it to take away, Betty had always known she was special.

Her father was a mean and distant bull whom Betty never saw much because he lived in another paddock. Her mother, a placid Jersey with the herd mentality so common in their species. Her life, very uneventful except whenever she decided it should be otherwise. Such a time had arrived.

Turning quickly on her back hooves, Betty trotted over to her mother who was not surprisingly eating grass.

‘Mum, I’m going to visit Dad, okay?’

She knew her daughter was not asking for permission, and she could have chosen to ignore her, because Betty would do as she pleased anyway, but a stirring of motherly concern prompted her to reply.

‘Your father,’ she began, carefully choosing her words, ‘is a busy bull who does not have time for visits from his calves.’

‘But he’ll make time for me, mum. I’m Betty. I’m special.’

‘Betty, you know he lives in another paddock, and fences separate us from them.’

‘I’ll jump over the fence.’

Her mother’s companions snickered in ridicule but Betty ignored them. ‘If I take a long run up, I should be able to build enough speed and momentum to carry me over. Of course I’ll need a strong first push from my back legs but I’m sure that won’t be a problem.’

‘Cows can’t jump, dear’ said her mother patiently, also overlooking the teasing remarks of the other cows.

‘Of course they can, mum. I’ve heard the farmer’s daughter singing about a cow who jumped over the moon.’

Wild laughter met that suggestion.

Betty was hurt and angry, but not with her mother. Those other stupid bovines made her mad. Just because they were too dumb or too scared to do anything except eat grass, go to the toilet and sleep, didn’t mean that she should waste her life doing the same boring things.

She trotted away to the other end of the paddock from where she could see her father in the distance. That brave bull wouldn’t be afraid to jump a fence no matter how high it was.

The sun was falling behind Kembla Grange clothing the paddock in an ever expanding coat of darkness. Betty decided she would wait for the morning to attempt her most daring feat so far in her young life.

Next morning drops of dew shone like crystals on each blade of grass in the field and Betty woke up feeling strong and fast. She warmed up her muscles with a brisk run around the paddock greeting by name all the other calves and cows she passed on the way. Some returned the greeting, other ignored her. Betty didn’t really care either way.

‘Betty! Betty’ called her mother.

She arrived at her side a little out of breath but tried hard not to show it in her voice, ‘Yes mum?’

‘Betty, dear we have a problem.’

Betty blinked her huge eyelids a couple of times and tilted her head to the left.

‘Have you noticed,’ continued her mother, ‘how brown the grass is lately?’

Puzzled, Betty looked around slowly surveying the field.

‘Now that you mention it,’ she said. ‘It is a bit.’

‘Do you remember the last time you saw the Farmer?’

Shuffling uncomfortably, Betty wondered about her line of questioning. She could not remember when she had last seen the Farmer, and that concerned her because she had a very good memory. Something was obviously wrong.

Her mother continued, ‘Can you remember the last time it rained, Betty?’

Tired of her beating around the bush, Betty said, ‘Tell me what’s wrong, mum.’

‘We’ve nearly eaten all the grass in the field, and the Farmer hasn’t been in to give us any extra feed, or to open the gate to let us go into the next field.’

Betty cottoned on. ‘The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.’

Her mother lowered her eyes and then her whole head as she silently allowed Betty to fully comprehend their situation.

‘We’ll just have to jump the fence then, mum. Like I planned to do today anyway, to go see dad.’

She shook her head sadly and slowly, ‘I told you, cows can’t jump.’

‘Cows can jump! They’ve just never tried. This is desperate. We’re going to starve to death if we don’t go aren’t we? Is that what you’re saying?’

Afraid she might say something nasty to her mother, Betty quickly ran away.
Her eyes were all blurry but she didn’t recognise the water in them as tears, she simply felt angry and frustrated. She wasn’t going to die just because she was afraid to try something new. No way!

Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself down, Betty began to sort through the problem in her mind, to pull it apart piece by piece, and then put it back together to hopefully find the solution. Even if she could jump the fence herself, and she certainly still believed she could, what about the other cows? The older ones, the younger ones, the sick ones? She could save herself but could she really be so selfish?

Betty spent the next few days, maybe it was weeks, moping around the field with all the other cows watching their once lush green paddock transform into a dust bowl. There was no sign of the Farmer or of any rain, and the creek was a muddy trickle. Pacing around the edge of the field, Betty tried not to let despair crush her. Everyone was so depressed because they had just about given up all hope of surviving. The paddock had become a waiting room for passage into the next life. Betty stamped at the ground in rage. The next life? Where God supposedly waited to meet them? Where was he now while they suffered?

Suddenly she collapsed against a fence post, exhausted from anger and worry.
It moved! Betty wasn’t sure if she imagined it or not so she stood up and leaned against the fence post. It seemed solid, but Betty pulled away and pushed her shoulder into it. She winced. That hurt! Brilliant Betty applied her grey matter to the situation and decided that although it would be painful, perhaps very painful, she would be able to knock the post over and make a way into the next field.

It proved harder than Betty had anticipated and after several minutes of pounding, the stubborn fence post was still standing. Soon a crowd gathered around to watch Betty, as first one cow noticed then another, and each in turn informed someone else. One of them realised what Betty was doing and began to urge her on. Before long they were all cheering, and Betty was encouraged to keep hammering away at the post despite the pain she felt throbbing through her whole body. Her shoulder was numb and so was her mind but she kept going, like a machine.

She roared, which frightened the others into silence, as she gave one last mighty heave with all her weight against the post, and crashed through the fence, trampling the post underneath her as she struggled to keep on her feet. A victory shout celebrated her victory as she fell to the ground and lay still. Turning her head, Betty could see the cows all standing together on the other side of the hole in the fence she had just made for them. Just standing there! She could hardly believe it but unfortunately she did not have enough strength to call them through so she just stared at them and they stared at her.

Not one of them crossed the broken fence and entered the field. Not one. Sadly, Betty now noticed that the grass on this side was not much better than the grass on the other side. There was more of it, but it would not last long, and anyway if the poor fearful cows refused to move from their old field what good was it to them? Betty the Brilliant had done all she could for them. All that remained was to pray for rain.

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