Why I’m afraid of cows…

Cows mooed! Bulls charged! I cried! True! I explore a child-hood fear in my mini ‘moo-moir’.

I was taking lunch to my Dad who was shearing sheep in the shed. That meant I had to walk between two large yards – one that held the bull and one that held the cows. When the bull snorted and charged the fence, stomping its hooves I walked closer to the cow yard. The track I was on was wide enough for farm vehicles to pass through, so there was a good bit of distance between the two yards and plenty of space for me to be safe in. But I didn’t feel safe!

Added to this, one day I decided to avoid the bull altogether and walk across a large expanse of granite rock on the far side of the cow yard. Big mistake!

The cows mooed just as loudly! My memory tells me I felt safe only when my Dad had me in his arms. I suppose a shearer saw me stranded in the middle of the rock, standing stock still, crying with fear. They were just so big! I was so little! About six year’s old. (Horses affect me the same way, incidentally!)So when I recently visited a girlfriend in Hovea, a stunningly beautiful outer suburb in Perth’s hills, and she wanted to show me her pride and joy – her newest calf, I wilted inside as I remembered my childhood fears of cows. However, I reached out and gave a tentative pat, and I admired the huge doe-eyed creatures with their glossy coats and cute calf. (By the way, no bull was anywhere in sight.)

Thing is – I did go to have a look at her cows. I did reach out and tentatively pat one. Reaching out to a large animal was (note past tense) daunting for me. I overcame some of my fear.

JUST LIKE OTHER THINGS I FEAR, I HAD TO TAKE A STEP TOWARDS IT TO OVERCOME IT.

I’m still not a lover of cows, bulls or any other large animal. However, I love friendly purring cats; small, cute, well-trained dogs; cuddly rabbits and many other cute little critters that I can have a measure of control over.

SO THE KEY TO GETTING CONTROL OVER MY FEARS is to reduce them to something I can manage. And that only happens by DOING SOMETHING – taking a step towards it, then another, and another, and as the fear is reduced to a manageable size, I am in control.

There’s a hole in this process – cows don’t reduce to the size of a dog or cat or rabbit! But the animal I can choose to give love to is one of the smaller ones. In reality, I don’t need to deal with cows. So I leave them to those who love them. Where the hole is plugged up is – it’s a matter of logic. Don’t go where I am not needed. I deal with my fear of cows by leaving them in their context, knowing that I am safe elsewhere!

So what if I am unexpectedly in an environment where I’m surrounded by cows or horses or bigger animals? Like when my husband and I were driving through Ireland and a herd of cows blocked our road? I keep a healthy distance. (In Ireland we stayed in the car, pulled to one side of the road until they ambled by in true Irish time.) That’s all there is to it. I don’t need to walk with them. I do not need to herd them. However, if asked, I could feed them. I might trust them long enough to toss a bale of hay their way, or put feed in a trough for them. I could even milk one if I had to. But I don’t need to. That’s not my role, nor one I will choose.

You see, I’ve learnt that, in facing my fears, it’s one step at a time, it’s replacing learned behaviours with knowledge about how to deal with and manage the fear, how to milk it for all it’s worth, (boom boom), and ultimately, it’s about making choices.

Even so, cows are not on my horizon.

These highland cows were on the other side of the fence when we travelled through Scotland. I’m very happy to let them belong there!

ES Dunn - Susan is a writer based in Perth's Darling Range, Western Australia. Her love for writing began as a child and is a life-long passion. Susan is also passionate about reading and attributes much of her learning from the wonderful literature she keeps discovering.

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