It was Saturday night, football homecoming weekend at Chandra's school. The big game was Cave Junction High School (us), against Hidden River High School (them). We hadn't beaten Hidden River once in the last six years.
This year wasn't shaping up much better. So far, we had one tie and three losses. But we weren't demoralized.
Our problem was mostly that we are a small town with a small high school with a small student body, and about half of those are girls. And none of the girls wanted to play. We have trouble fielding a team, but this year we have a very enthusiastic team with a new coach who was also the public speaking teacher.
We got to the game early and got great seats right on the sidelines. In Cave Junction it is not considered peculiar to take your dog to a football game.
As is traditional here, the homecoming game is preceded by a single round of cow chip bingo. For the benefit of those of you who aren't from around here let me explain:
Cow chip bingo is a lottery for raising money for the school rally team. 100 tickets numbered 1-100 are sold for $10 each, for a total of $1,000. The winner of the lottery gets $750. The rally team gets the other $250. The winner is chosen by an impartial cow. The football field is divided with string into 100 equal, square grids. Each grid is numbered 1-100, the same as the tickets. A cow is then allowed to wander around on the field until it deposits a cow chip on one of the squares. If you hold the ticket for that square, you win--it's that simple. Except sometimes when the chip falls right on the string. Then there is a gentleman with a large trowel and a scale who determines what portion of the chip is in each square, and divides up the prize proportionally--that's only fair. This may not sound like a lot of fun to you but hey, this is a small town and we take entertainment where we can get it.
To make it even more interesting, it's okay to bait the cow. People go onto the field ahead of time and put out corn and oats and apples and stuff in their squares to attract the cow. The old timers put the bait, not in their own squares, but in the squares all around them figuring that if the cow's head is in the square next to them, the cow's rump might be--well, you know.
Most years there's not enough people with a spare $10 to sell all the tickets, so Mr. Krueger guarantees to buy any unsold tickets. Mr. Krueger's the richest man around, he owns about half the town. He's a very nice man but he insists that the tickets he buys be located right in the center of the field. This year he bought 16 tickets. Mr. Krueger has won two of the last three years.
To start the event this year, a local rancher led a large brown cow named Honeysuckle to the exact center of the field and released her. People aren't allowed on the field with the cow but they can surround the field and yell and wave their arms--which they did with extreme gusto. Unfortunately, Honeysuckle just stood there. Either bored or terrified, I don't know which, because it's hard to tell with a cow; they don't have that much expression.
It looked like another sure win for Mr. Krueger when suddenly a small boy ran onto the field, picked up an ear of corn, and heaved it at the cow, striking her just below her left flank. Honeysuckle exploded!
(I thought that this was sort of funny because I don't like cows much anyway. When I first came from the city there was this one cow who chased me out of her pasture and tried to stomp me. Now this may not have been the same cow, but I don't care.)
Honeysuckle took off at a dead run for the gym building, through the double doors and into the girls' gym. The cheerleader girls were changing into their outfits for the game. All you could hear were terrified screams! The rancher ran after his cow. Fortunately, Mrs. Hansen, the girls' gym teacher stopped him at the door, took the cow's halter and lead rope, and went into the girl's gym. The rancher returned the cow to the center of the field and again the cow just stood there.
Well, by this time I had had enough! I think I mentioned that I'm not all that crazy about cows and I started barking at her--that did the trick. Honeysuckle took off running again, this time for the main gate.
Just at this time the Hidden River football team was marching into the stadium, looking resplendent in their dark blue jerseys with the yellow lightning bolts on their helmets. They yelled, "We'll catch your cow for you," and chased off after Honeysuckle. I was right behind.
The cow ran across the street and turned left into the alley between the drug store and the market. She broke through the chain-link gate and into the storage bin, where the market kept their empty, redeemable soft-drink cans.
This is where the Hidden River football team caught her. Since they had no halter or lead rope, they tried to pull her and push her. Again, Honeysuckle wouldn't move. The quarterback yelled, "Linemen, pick up the stupid cow and carry her back." That's just what they did. They marched proudly back into our stadium, carrying our cow, singing their school song. Honeysuckle still had an empty diet Dr. Pepper can stuck to her left hind hoof. They set the cow down in front of the rancher who again attached the halter and lead rope, and removed the diet Dr. Pepper can from her hoof. It's rare to see a cow get mad but Honeysuckle had had enough! She broke free and started running around the football field trailing the lead rope. At the end of the rope was a large tethering hook. As she ran the hook started picking up all the lengths of string crisscrossing the field. Pretty soon Honeysuckle had about a mile of string trailing behind her but it didn't slow her up a whit. Again she headed for the main gate.
She was chased by two other dogs plus myself, both football teams, and everyone else in the stadium. This time Honeysuckle crossed the road and turned right. This brought her to the site of the new Senior Citizens Center. She had become a master at breaking through doors by now and went right through the temporary plywood covering the doorway into the Center.
The town had been building a social center for their senior citizens from contributions when winter set in and the money ran out at the same time. The roof was on, so they decided to just board the place up until spring when they would seek more contributions and continue their building.
Honeysuckle ran across the meeting room and right up the stairs onto this little stage they had set up. And what do you think this cow did right in the middle of the stage? You got it, I'm no expert, but it was certainly the biggest cow chip I'd ever seen. The first person through the door was Gus Vaxman, the local preacher. He saw what the cow had done and raised both his arms in the air and shouted, "it's a sign!" Chris was right behind him and yelled, "You bet it's a sign--the cow has spoken. She's picked the winner ... the Senior Citizens Center!"
Everyone behind her liked that idea and the story quickly filtered back through the crowd. By the time the last person heard what happened the story sounded like divine revelation and a talking cow. The senior center was awarded the $750. Everyone thought that was a grand idea, even Mr. Krueger. Speaking for myself, I can't remember when I've had more fun. By the way, Honeysuckle is safely back in her pasture, chewin' on tall grass, so all is well.
Keep it waggin'
P.S. Final score: Hidden River--13, Cave Junction--14! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!