Get the story. Try not to get gored.
It's pouring rain in North Texas, my shoes are stuck in mud and an African bull cow is bearing down on me.
An exotic bull cow with horns reminiscent of Satan is lumbering toward me, his intentions becoming less and less pure with every step, and all I can think is, Will my editor fire me if I don't come back with the story?
Give me journalism, or give me death. Going back to the office alive but sans story is not an option.
A local rancher alerted my editor that he'd manage to secure several Ankole-Watusi cows, a breed of bull cow with Egyptian origins. How these foreign bovines came to be in an area so known for quarter horses that it's dubbed Horse Country USA, I can't remember. But secure them he had. As the cub reporter at a sleepy weekly newspaper, I set out on assignment.
The Watusi is a showstopper. Its eight-foot horns defiantly pierce the sky in stark contrast to the gentler, friendlier curves of the beloved Texas longhorn. Watusi are the cattle of kings and assert themselves as such. They are a presence.
This cow is the king, and I, with my camera and notebook and fledgling dreams of Pulitzer prizes, am an intruder not welcome in this kingdom.
It started raining right when I arrived at this man's ranch, but no amount of rain washes away a deadline. Seeing the gate to these creatures wide open seemed to say, Come on in, Veronica. Get the story, instead of, This-cow-will-gore-the-crap-out-of-you-dear-God-turn-back-now.
I took some photos. I moved closer and took some more. I caught one cow's attention. We locked eyes. For a moment, we had an understanding. We were equals.
Emboldened, I moved closer until we were about 20 yards apart. I took his picture again. This time, he moved, slowly at first, but then with purpose. I froze. We locked eyes again, this time my gaze pleading with him to play nice. Request denied.
I unfroze. I moved as swiftly as my slide-on sneakers would let me trudge through mud. I tried to match the cow's pace at first. He walked, so I sped walked in a way that I hoped seemed confident and not panicky. He progressed to a march, and then a jog. His nostrils flared. OK, Veronica, now you can run.
By the grace of some ranching god, I made it the 40 yards or so to the rancher's house. I ran up the porch steps and let myself in the back door. The cow had given up on the pursuit about 10 or 15 yards away from the house. I'd like to think he took pity on me, but he most likely got tired, or bored, or both. If he's like me, he probably thought he saw a Twix bar, and honestly, no one can resist a Twix.
Less than two steps into the house I was greeted by two Dolberman pinschers.
My obituary started writing itself in my head: A 23-year-old journalist who moved back in with her parents to be a newspaper reporter died today while trying to write a story about an exotic cow (see "Exotic cow dazzles all" on A2). She's survived by a boyfriend who lives 2,000 miles away and a Chevy Cavalier filled with Chick-fil-a receipts.
By the grace of yet another ranching god, the rancher who brought all of these cursed animals into my life chose this moment to come home. The dogs obeyed his command to heel, he gave me the interview and then drove me around the pasture so I could photograph the cows from the safety of his pickup truck. My photo made the front page.
Here lies Veronica, my obit will say. She got the story.