Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Sketch 3 (W&S): The Family Cow

Sometimes things take you by surprise. You might have been in a restaurant with a friend and gone to the salad bar only to return to find someone sitting in your spot and wearing your glasses. Or maybe you were traveling and had an unexpected encounter.

I think most people who have done any amount of hitchhiking will tell you that you’re about as unlikely to be picked up by someone who takes their holiday in Martha’s Vineyard as you are by those who spend their summers in the Hamptons. It’s safe to say your rides will come from either the middle or the working classes so it’s probably wise to hide that patrician accent of yours.

We had crossed our way into Wyoming and for the life of us weren’t able to get a ride. When hitchhiking, there are times of scarcity (eight hours and only eight-three miles) and then prosperity (the next ride, one thousand six hundred and sixty-six miles). We’d been on the side of the road for a spell and were just looking to get a little closer to our destination. That is not to say we didn’t periodically slip into the woods for a smoke before returning out again to brave the passing traffic.

When the old school bus pulled over, and the door opened, we were met with a decidedly unpleasant odor. I looked at my cousin with concern. He just said, “We can hardly be turning down rides.”

I took it in all very quickly and this from someone who nearly always take a very long time to register anything. The grinning driver with his Van Dyke. His pregnant wife. The young girl lying on a mattress in a feverish state. Two children playing with toy soldiers. The bus was packed with all of their earthly possessions.

All of us use our experiences to try and make sense of things. That’s why when we heard a sound we thought the kids had one of those toys where after you select the barnyard animal of your choice, you hear a cackle, grunt, or moo as the case may be. However, when we spotted something moving, we realized it was their cow.  To say we were startled would have been an understatement.

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12 thoughts on “Sketch 3 (W&S): The Family Cow

  1. Adventures come with surprises. That is what makes them all the more exciting!! :)


  2. Wow! Tom – what a moment. They obviously took drinking fresh milk, seriously. :)


    • It really was.

      They must have!

      One of the things I find interesting is how my age has flavored my view of what happened. Back then I viewed it as almost entirely comic though mixed with a feeling of my being put out (the smell and squalor).
      I still find it wildly amusing but at the same time I’ve a better grasp of the real hardships the family were going through.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Seriously? Wow what a story and on second thought, just imagine what they were doing just to survive


    • Yes, it really happened. Truth is stranger than fiction as they say.

      They survived with great difficulty. There was more to the story that I didn’t include like when the bus had almost run out of gas, and we pulled into a gas station and the driver said to fill it up, and the station attendant did. When the young man told him how much it was, the driver told him, “I don’t actually have no money.” He ended up pawning off his tool set in exchange for the gas.


      • It’s really sad Tom. So I do have a question, how did the cow survive w/o any food or drink on the bus – it takes a lot to feed one. And how did you all survive the stink from . . . well you know.


  4. It is. Unfortunately, there always seems to be lots who have little and who could do with a little help.

    One of the things I took from my time hitchhiking was how it was often the people that had the least to offer who gave the most.

    It was an old school bus, and they’re pretty big so I’m assuming they had food and water for it somewhere or the other.

    The windows were open, which helped a little, but I guess it was just one of those situations where you have to grin and bear it.


  5. Ha ha ha… too funny!
    Would have loved to have seen your faces :)
    ..and the fresh milk comment is a real gem.


  6. This is great. It’s nice to see you work in prose.

    I don’t normally scan through the other comments, but I did today to see if anyone else picked up a creepy vibe from this. It appears I am alone.

    Another thing I noticed: Why would you have to slip in the woods to smoke a cigarette? I suspect that the answer is that my question is based upon a flawed assumption.

    I have never hitchhiked. It was pretty much a dead art by the time I was old enough (although I occasionally still see hitchhikers on Interstate 5). I remember my folks picking up hitchhikers when I was young.

    I recently heard an explanation for the decrease in hitchhikers in recent years which I think is intriguing. The popular assumption is that hitchhiking has decreased in response to the perceived dangers of hitchhiking (although statistics don’t bear this out). However, this study found that the decrease in hitchhiking was a result of cheap and plentiful cars, not fear.

    Like any study, I take it with at least a few grains of salt, but it’s something to chew over.


  7. Talk about the creepy vibe you picked up.

    It would have been more accurate to say we slipped into the woods for a toke.

    Interesting about the study. There is certainly the perception it is dangerous. But perhaps it’s no more than the case of that Halloween incident you mentioned in one of your posts that never took place.


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