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MEMBER OF THE HERD • by Guy Anthony De Marco

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt leaned on his hay fork and looked at his girls, neatly lined up along the two strands of barb-wire fence. He pulled a thin red bandanna out of his Carhartt overalls, inspected it until he found a clean spot, and wiped dirt from around his eyes. “Okay, Girls, you’re all acting strange. What’s the matter?”

The Herefords broke rank and surrounded Burt, slime-covered noses probing his hands. A few licked his fingers with broad curling tongues, and he laughed.

“Sorry, no snacks until after you’re milked.” Several of the cows tilted their heads, looking like half-ton Labradors. Burt scratched their noses and shooed away the bottle flies.

“Time to get some udder relief.” Three of the younger cows crowded the chute leading into the milking barn, but the rest lingered, surrounding an old milker named Glenda.

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt stopped trying to sort the eager cows and turned towards the herd, his head tilted, one bushy eyebrow raised, not realizing he was imitating their peculiar behavior. “You girls trying to tell me something?”

“Yo, Milkman!”

Burt jumped backwards, dropping the hay fork.

“You okay? Didn’t mean to startle you.” Dean, the owner, hopped over the corral gate leading to the pasture.

Burt blushed and picked up the hay fork. “Sorry, Boss, I guess I was lost in thought.”

Dean clapped him on the back. “I don’t pay you to think, old man.” The laugh lines around his eyes bunched up as he smiled; he liked teasing Burt when they talked. “How are the girls doing today? You pick one out to marry yet?”

Burt shook his head, “Nope, I haven’t. I can’t afford the dowry anyway, not on your wages.”

“We’re paying you? I need to check with accounting.”

They stood together, watching the cows watching them, when Dean’s demeanor changed. “We need to cull Glenda.”

The herd crowded tighter around the old cow, who burped up an extra-large lump of cud. Her grizzled head turned to the left, and she stared at Burt with her one good eye.

“I know you like Glenda, but it’s her time. I’ve sent for Sam to take her to the butcher.”

Burt nodded, and was surprised to discover his eyes watering. “Yeah, I guess we all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

“Okay, then. Go ahead and get the girls going on the milking machine.” Dean didn’t look at Burt’s face, out of respect to the old man’s feelings. He patted Burt’s shoulder, and left through the pasture gate.

“Stupid old git, I can’t believe you’re bawling over walking hamburger.” Sam, who had been eavesdropping, limped through the milking barn door with his hand on an old six-shooter tucked into his belt, scattering the three young cows from the entry chute with a string of curses. “You people make me sick.”

Burt could see the contempt and gleam of cruel death on Sam’s face as he sized up Glenda. “She looks a bit like the bull that gored me. I’m gonna enjoy this one.”

He began to push his way through the herd, smacking the offended cows’ noses when they refused to move. When he reached Glenda, she stood calm and proud.

“I’m sorry, old girl,” Burt whispered.

It’s fine, she seemed to say, that’s life. She broke eye contact to give one last glance at her numerous daughters. They mooed goodbye in unison.

Sam scowled and kicked at the cow. Burt heard the distinct sound of leg bones breaking. Glenda went down fast, mooing in agony. Before he realized what he was doing, Burt lunged at Sam, swinging the hay fork in a wide arc. It caught Sam on his jaw, knocking him backwards while he spit out some of his remaining brown teeth.

Burt looked down and saw Sam’s revolver. He picked it up, aimed carefully, and fired one shot.

Glenda exhaled, the spark leaving her eye as she passed on. Burt tossed the gun at Sam’s feet.

“You’re done here, Sam. I’ll make sure Dean fires you.” The herd crowded around Burt and bumped him towards the milking barn.

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt, still fuming, tried to direct the cows into their milking stalls, but they kept nosing him. “I know girls, but Glenda is gone, and I don’t have any snacks.”

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt couldn’t get the cows to move. He didn’t notice Sam’s silhouette by the door, pistol in hand.


Guy Anthony De Marco resides on a ranch surrounded by zombies and cattle. His kids enjoy burning voodoo dolls, and his wife puts up with the zombies because the view is wonderful off the back porch. Guy attempts to maintain a website at http://www.GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com when the demons let him out of his cage.

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MEMBER OF THE HERD • by Guy Anthony De Marco, 3.8 out of 5 based on 63 ratings
Posted on January 27, 2010 in Stories, Surreal
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  • Alex

    Excellent flash, he wrote “steaks” last year, guess he likes cows. Surreal story.

  • http://www.everydayfiction.com Nate Mitchell

    Bizarre and creepy i swear my dog can project thoughts like the cows

  • Mary B.

    Um, a few nitpicks. I don’t know anyone who milks Herefords. They’re considered a milk breed.

    And when a milker goes dry, they are usually shipped off to auction in hopes someone is dumb enough to buy them. Shooting them out in the field would make a heck of a mess to clean up. I have seen field culling, but usually the hole is dug first and the cow is led over to the hole and then shot. Why make extra work like dragging a carcass?

    I realize it’s popular to assume that large scale farmers are cruel and don’t care about their herds, but I’ve never seen something like the mindless violence of kicking and breaking the leg of a cow you were about to cull–not to mention that would take some serious power. That’s a lot of bone there.

    Anyway, this one bothered me and not in a good way.

  • Mary B.

    Ack! I said “milk breed” above. I meant a meat breed.

  • Tony

    I liked this one. Herefords are mostly a meat breed, but some milk them and use them for meat (at least in upstate NY). I think the point of the jerk breaking the cow’s leg was just to be evil to Burt. Yes, it would be a pain to kill it and drag it off, but the farmhand would get to cause Burt pain…which I think helps to make Burt’s reaction real. I would also assume he broke the leg at the knee. Well done, and I thought the cows crowding the mother cow, then Burt, was a surreal event. Well done, and a 5-star from me.

  • J.C. Towler

    What I liked about this story: the unexpected moments. I thought this was headed into sentimentalityville where Burt would somehow save Glenda. The ending had a nice chilling effect.

    What I was undecided about: The cows thoughts. But they helped set up the end, so I lean in favor of them.

    What I didn’t like: too much POV shifting, too many shopworn lines and a central casting bad guy complete with rotten teeth.

    I’ll leave the inconsistencies or lack thereof to the cow experts to debate.

    –John

  • Jen

    Nice twist! I wasn’t expecting this one.

  • Mike

    I enjoyed the story, a nice twist in the end

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I don’t know anything about cows. Do cows stampede?

  • Joe

    Well Done! The hanging ending keeps one guessing.

  • Jeff

    Nice work. I wanted to take the bullet for Glenda!!

  • Margie

    This was well written for the most part and held my interest until the end. However, I am such an old softy; I wanted my happy ending! 5 stars anyways. :)

  • Bob

    Sam was straight out of central casting, which took the shine off this one for me.

  • Robins Fury

    I’m a farm girl from way back and I spent alot of time around cows. This story simply makes me sad. I guess the author achieved his intended goal – to evoke strong emotion.

  • Adam Armour

    I thought this was pretty great. It set a good mood.

  • http://www.deborahblood.com Debi Blood

    My parents were ranchers and the love Burt showed for his animals reminds me a lot of my dad’s quiet, gentle way with our herds. And yes, animals talk – if we listen.

    Excellent story! *****

  • Eryk De Marco

    I’m surprised that someone who is so sympathetic with cows could make any human friends, but I guess he was being sympathetic, unlike the other jerk. I didn’t expect him to shoot Glenda. Anyway, I’m going to go back to burning voodoo dolls, and teasing you while you’re behind the bars in your cage. (I hope I can avoid the demons, though…)

  • http://everydayprose vondrakker

    Echo #3 Mary B
    some inconsistencies
    But still a 5*****

  • maggie

    Good job stirring emotion. I live on a ranch and its hard to overlook the inconsistencies in the story line. It paints a picture of ranching practices that is not very accurate. A true ranch would never tolerate a “Sam” ranch hand. I give it a 4 because it does stir emotion and conveys the rapport that does exits between ranch hands and the animals they tend.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    I’m not a cow person, and I found a lot of this to be udder nonsense. And I didn’t like the ending … it left things hanging, suggesting but not resolving.

  • http://wanttogetpublished.blogspot.com Bernard S. Jansen

    I was wondering the same things as Mary B (#3).

    Does everyone in the US walk around with a loaded pistol in their pocket? I know they do in movies. In Australia farm kills are normally with a rifle. Also, causing stress by breaking the cows leg would wreck the meat; regardless of the pain you wanted to inflict on someone else.

    @Jim – I understand your beef; but it’s not that bad.

  • http://wwebb3@comcast.net Bill Webb

    I have just joined this web site so I am new to the stories. But it seems, so far, they have a sad out look at reality. We didn’t treat animals that way where I grew up in Michigan 30’s-40’s. Sorry can’t say I enjoyed it that much.

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