We were sitting around the coffee shop, just minding our own business, when the waitress we affectionately call Rosie (because of her dim outlook on life) tossed a newspaper clipping on the table along with our food. It was about a study where professors are attempting the breed friendlier cattle. Rosie cut the story from the paper because she thought the researchers had it backwards. “It’s been my experience waiting on tables for 20 years,” said Rosie, “that it’s the cowboys who need to be friendlier.” (Perhaps we had offended her in some way. Could it have been our generous tipping practices?)
As usual we paid little attention to what Rosie said because we all knew she exaggerated a lot but we were interested in the prospect of friendlier cattle. J.C., who’s had a horse under him so long his legs are warped and is usually as sociable as a freshly shorn sheep was incensed at the mere suggestion that cows are not friendly. “Sure, I’ve tangled with a few mad cows, locoed steers and killer bulls in my time, but I think your average range cow is pretty agreeable compared to most people,” said J.C. as if he looked straight at me.
Thus began a lively debate on who are the most sociable creatures in the natural world. “I disagree with you J.C.,” I said. “In my many liaisons with cows I have found them to NOT be all that fraternal. Although I’ve seen them reluctantly share a pasture with sheep on occasion I can’t really say it was a touchy-feely relationship.”
“I had a mean cow that let a bird roost on its back,” recalled Bob. “I think it may have been because the bird ate insects off the cow’s back.
“That’s a symbiotic relationship,” said the Professor, the intellectual of the group. “That means they coexist peacefully as long as it’s beneficial to both parties.”
“Kind of like bankers and ranchers,” said J.C. “Or pigs,” added Bob. “Hogs are so ornery they couldn’t get along with a sheep dog. They are as anti-social as NFL linemen.
“You do make one valid point,” chimed in the Professor. “Dogs are friendly. They’ll shake hands with anybody and their only natural enemies are fleas and cars.”
About that time Rosie returned and didn’t look a day older after her long absence. “I’ve been listening to you blabber-mouths carry on. Just look at you,” said Rosie, cattlemen at this table, oil men at that table and cops at the counter. You are all segregated by species. All animals prefer to associate with others of their own kind.”
“For once you speak the truth Rosie,” I chimed in. “But have you ever noticed that dogs don’t seem to like other dogs? For that reason alone I’d have to say that dogs are disqualified and the horse wins the popularity contest as the most friendly farm animal.”
“That’s right,” agreed Bob. “I’ve read where race horses often share a stall with a billy goat because they enjoy their company. Any animal that can put up with a billy goat has to have a big heart.”
“And a poor sense of smell,” said Rosie. “Which I might add, sure would come in handy in this job,” as if she was referring to one of us.
“My horse, Gentleman, got along with almost every animal,” I recalled as my eyes teared up. “He slept with a cat, ate with the cows and didn’t even seem to mind the smell of pigs. But one creature he would not tolerate was a chicken.”
“That just proves what good taste horses have, “said J.C. “Rosie you’re looking plumb thoughtful, as if you might have had an original thought. Care to share it?”
“I was recalling the time I saw a sheepherding Democrat and a Republican rancher sitting right where you guys are and they were laughing and carrying on as if they really liked one another. I never saw such a love fest in my life.”
Of course, the only part of Rosie’s accusation we believed was the last sentence.