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I'm not sure what I did to upset them but their actions suggest that the cattle drive bovines had a score to settle with me

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason ChaneyI'm not sure how or when, but I must have really angered some cattle recently.

There is no other way to explain how things unfolded during Wednesday evening's cattle drive.

Before I get to what happened, I should first acknowledge that being editor of the community newspaper paints a bit of a target on my back. While I gather input from supervisors and colleagues and field opinions and story ideas from the general public, responsibility for whatever ends up in the paper lands at my feet. It opens me up to praise and blame, drawing the gratitude or the ire of readers throughout our circulation base.

It's not always pleasant but in all my time at this post, I have never felt as attacked as I did after some cattle conspicuously decided to go rogue as they passed the ol' newspaper office.

When the chaos first ensued, I was safely stationed a few blocks to the south among the street party crowd, ready to start shooting photos as soon as the cattle crossed my path. But as I focused my eyes down the road, I noticed a few of the cattle getting a bit squirrely, weaving along the empty stretch of Main Street like a drunkard fresh from the bar stool. Then, they took a sharp detour to the east side of the street — a spot that sure looked like the parking lot of the Central Oregonian office.

The moments that followed were difficult to see, but I noticed the cattle drive chaperones veering after the stray cattle and the whole operation seemed to stall at that portion of the trek. Finally, order appeared restored and a tightly knit group of bovines continued up the road, bracketed by some stressed out-looking folks on horseback.

But I soon discovered, as the group approached, that the cattle had no interest in providing folks a nice, orderly parade — especially the lead cow who darted from one side of the road to the other. There seemed to be an agenda and at the time, I didn't catch onto it. I was too busy shooting pictures, ready to dive for cover if the cattle got too close for comfort.

Once the group passed, I thought it was over — but of course, anyone who attended the cattle drive knows better. A few moments later, another group of cows were led down the road, the ones who had decided to misbehave.

Well, needless to say, I enjoyed a good laugh over the whole ordeal. I think cattle escaping during the drive and running wild through the town is one of those things that spectators secretly root for — the same way folks wait to see if the rimrock area catches fire on the Fourth of July. All the while, I tried to confirm whether or not the cattle ventured onto the newspaper property.

News traveled fast. I soon got a phone call from a colleague reporting that the cattle had indeed paid quite the memorable visit. A couple of staff from the printing press, who work evenings, had taken a seat on a bench near the street to watch the show. I don't think they expected one of the cows to wander over and say hello. While they ran for cover, another cow apparently found its way to one of the office windows and stared at it for a good minute or two.

Again, I shared a hearty laugh and continued on with the street party festivities. Hilarious stuff, right?...or so I thought.

Later, the time finally came to call it an evening, so I strolled back to the newspaper parking lot where I had left my van. Up to that point, I had always thought it was so wonderful to have such a close, guaranteed parking spot during such a busy event. I have since reconsidered.

When I first saw the driver side of my white rig, I thought someone had pulled a prank on me. The front fender was splattered with dried brown…stuff, and much of the driver side door was sprayed with a white and yellowish substance.

The scene had me stumped. Had someone egged it? No, eggs aren't brown. But cow pies aren't white. And it was way too much gunk to have come from a bird. What the heck happened, here?

Thankfully, another colleague from the press staff helped shed some light on the situation. She confirmed that the cows spent quite a bit of their time away from the herd getting acquainted with all the cars in the parking lot. And she reminded me that a massive heron hangs out near the creek.

So, we concluded that a cow must have tagged one part of the van and scared off the heron, who bombed the van as it flew overhead. Who knows for sure, but it's the best explanation I have heard so far.

I'm happy to report that the bird and cow…stuff hosed off with little effort once I got home. But as I rinsed my rig, a troubling thought began to percolate: Those cattle were targeting me.

Scoff all you like but consider the evidence. The cows didn't abandon the drive until they reached the newspaper office. Remember that cow who was staring in the office window? Yeah, that was my office window. Still skeptical? Well, get this — my car was the only one out of roughly a dozen that had even a hint of bovine … graffiti. And there's one more thing: When I was looking through my cattle drive photos, I noticed that the lead cow — you know, the squirrely one — was staring me down big time.

So, I have no idea what I did to draw the ire of the cattle. Did one of my articles cast them in an unfavorable light? Maybe, they found out I've eaten just a few too many burgers and steaks this past year. I may never know. But what I do know is when you're the editor of the community newspaper, it paints a target on your back … and apparently your vehicle. I think I'll park somewhere else next year.


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