Apr. 26, 2002

The Day of Falling Cows

by Tom Paxton

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: "The Day of Falling Cows," by Tom Paxton.

The Day of Falling Cows

The Russian cargo plane sat on the tarmac,
Somewhere in Siberia, waiting to fly.
The crew, who thought that they were wild cowboyskis,
Had stolen all these cattle - they weren't sure why.
They drove their stolen herd aboard the airplane;
The plane roared down the runway in the dawn.
The Russian rustlers gave each other high fives,
And soon the herd of stolen cattle was gone.

The cattle-bearing cargo plane kept climbing,
And finally leveled off at cruising speed.
The herd began to show some signs of panic;
The herd began to threaten to stampede.
The crew tried singing cowboy songs to soothe them -
It only seemed to scare the cattle more.
And now the crew themselves began to lose it,
And someone opened up the cargo door.

The cattle had been milling around in terror
Round the cargo hold they trampled about.
They saw the cargo door begin to open,
And, cattle being cattle, they ran out,
Mooing like a herd of Texas longhorns,
Out the cargo door of the plane they ran,
But, instead of the frozen soil of old Siberia,
They were five and a half miles over the Sea of Japan.

Meanwhile, on the tranquil sea below them,
On the shimmering waters of green and blue,
Bobbed a busy fleet of Japanese fishermen,
Casting nets and doing what fishermen do.
All at once, the fishermen were frozen
If you had been there, you'd have been frozen, too
To hear a sound all fishermen hear with horror:
The sound of falling cattle going "Moo!"

The cattle started hitting the troubled waters;
They'd hit the Sea of Japan with a water "Splat!"
But someone happened to be beneath a big one;
It went right through and sank that sucker flat.
The eland fears the roar of a hungry lion;
A mouse goes weak at the sound of a cat's meows,
But these days, Japanese fishermen live in terror,
And listen for the sound of falling cows.

Today is Arbor Day, when children all over the country come home from school with pine seedlings planted in half pint milk cartons. Arbor Day was first observed in Nebraska in 1872, and was the brainchild of J. Sterling Morton, the editor of the Nebraska City News. Morton, who had had grown up in the east, was unaccustomed to the treeless prairies of Nebraska.

It's the birthday of novelist Bruce Jay Friedman, born in New York City (1930). He's known for darkly humorous novels, usually featuring Jewish characters who feel out of place in contemporary American society. His first novel, Stern (1962), was a modern version of the story of Job. His other novels include About Harry Towns (1974), The Current Climate (1989), and Violencia! A Musical Novel (2002).

It's the birthday of novelist and screenwriter Anita Loos, born in Mount Shasta, California (1893). She started out as a screenwriter in the early days of Hollywood-her first screenplay, The New York Hat, was filmed in 1912 by D.W. Griffith, starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore. She went on to work on more than sixty silent films, including Griffith's epic Intolerance (1916). But she was most famous for her 1926 novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The novel was adapted for the stage soon after it was published, and had a successful run on Broadway. In 1953, a musical version of the novel was filmed, with Marilyn Monroe starring as Lorelei Lee, the "dumb blonde" from Little Rock who goes to Paris in search of a rich husband. Anita Loos said: "I'm furious about the Women's Liberationists. They keep getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming that women are brighter than men. That's true, but it should be kept very quiet or it ruins the whole racket."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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