Alice McClintic Moore
1904 ~ 1986
For the last twenty years a battle has been raging in Marlinton. I don’t mean that we inhabitants have been in a state of siege all that time. We have enjoyed periods of comparative quiet, usually during the winter months, when the skirmishing died down; but we have always known that permanent peace could never be ours.
The question involved is of great magnitude and the issue is vital; the citizens are partisan and intolerant; neither side has shown any disposition to mellow with age. Perennially, the fighting breaks out, now at the bridge party, now at the Ladies Aid, now in the jury room.
Ladies grow insulting, gentlemen angry, children belligerent. Every year a vote is taken, an official vote, in a regular election, and the outcome is always the same – cows are allowed to walk the streets of Marlinton unaccompanied.
The county paper carries the headline, “Cows Win Again!”
The town is divided; religion, politics and scandal take a back seat when the cow question comes up.
Mrs. Martin is the leader of the anti-cow party, and Mr. Snow heads the pro-cow faction.
These commanders are unforgiving, and uncompromising.
Mrs. Martin and Mr. Snow haven’t spoken for years. That is, they haven’t spoken to each other; their loquaciousness on the burning question, in other circles, increases daily. And their methods of proselyting are not always above reproach. Mrs. Alton, an anti-cow of several years standing, was heard voicing decidedly pro-cow sentiments recently. Her surprised neighbors investigated and the awful truth was revealed. Mrs. Alton had been the recipient of several gifts of cream from Mr. Snow.
The Pros, of course, are the cow owners. Naturally, they want their animals to eat grass, and the only grazing land in the valley is along the sidewalks and on the vacant lots of the town.
The Antis, however, complain that therein lies the point of the whole situation. The cows not only graze on the vacant lots, but also in the gardens and yards and shrubbery of the citizens; and this, in spite of the fact that high picket fences surround their property. Gates are sometimes left open by careless people, and the indictment has been made, too, that several cows have opened gates themselves. Each time a resident arises in the morning and finds his spinach devoured, the Antis gain a convert, and the fighting breaks out afresh.
A relative of ours from the city came to visit us one summer.
One night he played bridge until past midnight with some friends down the street. When he started home, the town was dark. Our town light company, assuming that all good citizens were at home and safe in their beds by midnight, cut off all the street lights at twelve o’clock. Any people who might be abroad after that late hour, should be ashamed of themselves, and glad to return home, unseen under cover of darkness.
At any rate, the young man started home, feeling his way along the fences. As he crept along the courthouse walk he stumbled and fell over a formidable and lively object – a suddenly awakened cow.
His screams aroused the town.
I, myself, have never been a zealous supporter of either party. I have tried to remain neutral. I am one of those horrid spineless, creatures who prefers peace at any price. But if I am anything, I guess I am a Pro.
Although we haven’t owned a cow for many years, I recollect a delightful parade of my youth.
My father led the procession, carrying the milk bucket; I followed close upon his heels; Tackle, our lame Airedale dog, came next; and my two cats brought up the rear. We marched morning and evening from our house to the barn. We all superintended the milking, and upon our return to the house, assisted in the consumption of the milk. Our ritual never varied. The three bowls on the back porch and one in the kitchen were filled and emptied twice a day.
One summer, after I had been absent for the better part of a year, I casually remarked that the island in the bend of the creek was a picturesque spot; the cows grazing there lent an atmosphere of rural peace rarely found in a town the size of Marlinton.
I realized my mistake before the words were out of my mouth. The two Antis, who were in the car with me, close friends of mine from childhood, have been noticeably cool ever since.
The situation, already tense, was not lightened when I had to stop the car at the next corner and wait while a cow took her leisurely way across the street.
Even when I am absent I am kept informed as to developments.
The latest bulletin from the front carries surprising news. The cows themselves have taken up the issue now.
Heretofore they have shown little interest in the affair, remaining calm and placid and unconcerned. But the constant bickering is beginning to tell.
The cows are finally realizing that their far-famed contentment is threatened.
They have taken steps.
Mr. Barnell’s Daisy, willfully and with malice aforethought, on Tuesday last, had a calf in Mrs. Martin’s front yard!