There I was, standing in the middle of a green pasture in Christian County staring fear right in the face.
“Fear” was a Limousin cow named Bella who is about as gentle as they come. She was interested in the cell phone, legal pad and camera that I, a total stranger, was using to interview her owners.
Debbie and Allen King graciously allowed me to tour 40 acres of land they run cattle on in Bruner. A story on the Kings will appear in the next edition of “Country Neighbor,” which is full of salutes to Missouri Century Farm award winners throughout the Ozarks.
Debbie laughed and informed me that the cow I was face-to-face with loves cell phones and would happily take a selfie if I wanted.
I said, “Well, hello there,” to the cow, and reached out to pet her with an unsteady hand. I took her picture.
Allen and Debbie King have a beautiful acreage. It’s a peaceful and picturesque place rich in history, and I very much enjoyed visiting with the Kings about their family’s roots in Christian County and their proud tradition of farming.
I don’t like to admit this, but I’m kind of afraid of cows. I appreciate the people who raise them, and I love to eat steaks and hamburgers, but I tend to get an uneasy feeling when I get close to large animals, or when large animals get close to me.
I’ve done what anyone does to figure out what’s wrong with them—I went on the internet and did some research. Through this highly scientific methodology, I have self-diagnosed myself with mild equinophobia or hippophobia, fear of horses.
I think horses are beautiful and useful creatures, and as long as there is a sturdy fence or a healthy bit of distance separating me from the horses, we get along just fine. The last time I tried to ride a horse was about six years ago, and that horse was skittish. I stayed in the saddle for about a minute.
A car, boat, motorcycle or office chair never started walking backwards on its own accord without me telling it do so. Horses have minds of their own. They weigh more than a 1,000 pounds, and they have hooves and teeth. I’ll leave the riding to someone else.
I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I did grow up in rural Oklahoma. My father-in-law ran cattle and my wife’s aunt and uncle still run a large cattle operation. I’ve spent some time unwillingly checking cows, putting out hay and even working cows and calves in a chute. I’m not allergic to hard work, but I definitely don’t enjoy being in a confined space with a somewhat wild animal.
Did I mention the hooves and teeth?
Equinophobia is very real. In 2014, NFL Films and the Kansas City Chiefs produced a short video piece on all-pro safety Eric Berry’s fear of horses. Berry regularly collides with some of the toughest players in professional football, but displayed a very real fear of a horse named Warpaint that parades around Arrowhead Stadium when the Chiefs score a touchdown. The video on the internet shows Berry confronting his fears and coming to a better understanding of Warpaint with her handlers.
I couldn’t find a fancy name for a fear of all hoofed animals weighing more than 1,000 pounds, but I think that’s what I’m diagnosing myself with. Cows and horses are great, but I’ll leave the everyday dealings and up close encounters to professionals like Allen and Debbie King.
I don’t suffer from panic attacks or heart palpitations, but given the choice, I try to avoid head-to-head confrontations with horses and cows.
I’ve photographed horses at plenty of fairs, parades and rodeos. Actually, rodeos are one of my favorite events to take pictures of. I put enough distance between myself and the livestock and maintain a heavy degree of trust in the fences and the wranglers. The Kings unknowingly afforded me an opportunity to safely confront my fear of big animals, and I’m very glad that their cows are tame enough that I could take that opportunity and feel good about it.
I had a great time that evening on the farm, it was great to meet a gentle Limousin cow, and I do hope you all enjoy the next edition of “Country Neighbor.” I’m going to keep eating beef, writing stories and facing my fears.