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The Grass Didn’t Get Greener … Til the Cows Went Home!

Ward Phillips


We have all heard those old phrases; “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence” and “such and such won’t happen … till the cows come home.”

I remember experiencing both of those situations on the same day.

I was a young fellow, probably around seven years old, when I awoke early one summer morning to the sound of a loud smack right outside my bedroom window. That was followed immediately by an even louder balling, waling sound of surprise, distress and maybe even a little pain. Once I got my glasses adjusted and on my face straight, I peeked out the window. I saw a huge brown cow trotting away and my mother standing there with a long handled straw broom. She had just swatted that cow across its hindquarters with the flat side of that broom.

I looked around and there was another big ole cow standing next to one of our flowerbeds. This cow was chewing something, I don’t know if it was one of the flowers or just the grass growing close by, but it left a pretty good-sized divot in the ground. This one became my mother’s next target … she wound up with that broom handle and swung it so that the flat side of the straw smacked that cow with as much force as she could muster. The cow bucked, balled and took off in the same direction as the first one.

I looked over in the neighbor’s yard and there was another cow roaming around, grazing on the grass under the clothesline. This one was oblivious to the towels and sheets that were draped across her back as she chewed up the lawn below. The lady of that house was also visibly upset as she tried to shoo the beast away from her yard with a dishtowel and some words that were foreign to me at that time.

I looked up and even Gus (many of you will remember Gus), had joined in the fray. He was waving his felt hat curled in one hand and flapping his other outstretched arm trying to help herd these errant critters out of the yard. Crouched down facing that cow, he looked like a middle linebacker trying to determine which direction the running back was going to take to evade him.

The lady across the street was snapping a wet towel at one jersey colored cow that was sitting down in her yard.

With all this commotion going on, the whole neighborhood came to life. I looked up the street and the same scene was unfolding all over the place … our neighborhood had been invaded by these big, brown, chewing machines. No matter where one of them turned, it was being shooed away, swatted at, yelled at or chased in a different direction.

I had been around cows a little. My mother grew up on a farm and was raised around cows. I had visited my grandparent’s home and even had helped my grandfather milk a cow before. But this was the first time I had seen one in our yard. These cows were trampling the flowerbeds, the peonies, and generally messing up the yard, in more ways than one. But it sure was exciting to see all these cows galloping around with the neighborhood ladies chasing them from one yard to the other and us kids chasing cautiously behind them. (Watching carefully where we stepped.)

Where had they come from? And how were they going to get back there?

They had come from the pastures on the other side of Trace Creek. It seems the rain had washed out a fencerow up stream. These cows just let their curiosity get the best of them. They ventured across the water, I suppose in search of greener pastures. What they found was anything but a warm welcome on our side of the creek.

There would be no peace in the neighborhood on that day … “Till the cows went home.”

Eventually the cows’ owner came with a truckload of help. They herded them up and led those cows back across the creek to their home pastures.

I don’t believe they did any real harm that day and I don’t think they found the grass any greener on our side of the fence.

But I do know …  there were some spots in our yard where the grass definitely grew greener for the rest of that summer.

Wishing you all a great week ahead, greener pastures and all!

Editor’s note: Ward Phillips is the publisher of The News-Democrat, a weekly newspaper published in Waverly. His column is featured there each week. He may be reached by email at

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