Can a long dead cow save a life?
Driving home alone through many miles of dark, narrow country roads in the early hours of the morning; gorse and briars occasionally scraping against the side of the car; avoiding potholes in the road surface; struggling to keep awake; another thirty miles to go according to that last signpost.
Graphic by Marie Guillot
Suddenly, from a high rock outcrop on my left a cow is tumbling down onto my car. I see her vividly in the headlights for a moment. COW! Two wild, glaring eyes stare at me as we rush towards each other. I see eye-lashes, a wet nose and dribble of saliva in that final millisecond before her full weight crushes down on the car and her huge, heavy head comes bursting in on me in an explosion of windscreen glass and......
My legs ram the brake and clutch pedals into the floor sending screaming tyres spinning the car into an uncontrolled juddering stop facing the direction from whence I had come. Heart pounding, sweating, panting for breath, surprised that I could feel no pain. Was I dead? No. I still gripped the steering wheel. I was in a car– my own car! The windscreen wasn't shattered, the bodywork wasn't crushed. The headlights still worked and I could see that they illuminated the black semi-circular streaks my smoking tyres had imprinted on the road. THE COW! Where was the COW? How could I have missed hitting her and she me at that speed?
Now trembling violently, I opened the car door and stepped unsteadily out into the night. In the headlights' beam I followed the skid-marks to where they first began. Nothing! Not a trace of a cow, no blood, no glass, no evidence of an impact. I looked up to where the animal had appeared from. It was an unbroken line of gorse twenty feet or more above the road, with no gap that a cow could possibly have come from. To this day I find it difficult to believe that THERE WAS NO COW. My sleep-starved brain had created the cow and possibly saved my life as I fell asleep at the wheel. THERE NEVER WAS A COW....
Or was there....?
When I was very young, four years old or less, one of my uncle's cows named Brownie lunged towards me causing me to fall backwards into a shallow drain with the cow glaring down at me with her head only a few inches above my face. I knew of the incident as it was recounted among the family many times but I had no memory of what happened until several weeks after my sudden stop on a clear road.
Quite unexpectedly I suddenly recalled the image of Brownie's huge head, eyelashes, dribbling muzzle and eyes glaring at me through a clump of rushes while I lay in the drain.
It was exactly the same close-up image of the cow's head that I 'saw' through the car windscreen on that lonely stretch of road.
Thanks for saving my life, Brownie!