The Curiosity Shop

How My Father Killed a Cow with an Airplane

Hi Terry,

I sort of enjoyed telling you the story of my trip to Austin last time. I've been wanting to get that down for some years now. I've even thought of changing the names and putting it out on the web. One thing that I neglected to mention is that when I told my brother and his wife about my misadventure, they told me about some poor guy who went a little further out of his way by accident. This guy was trying to fly form L.A. to Oakland. He thought he heard an announcement that his plane was boarding, so he rushed to the gate. He was very short on sleep, so when he found his seat he promptly went to sleep. He slept for quite a long time and was finally awakened by an announcement from the pilot that passengers on the left side of the plane could see some island. He looked out the window and there was ocean in all directions. He landed in Auckland. The airline was very nice about the whole thing. They flew him home for free.

Well, there's at least one other popular true story in my family. I call it, "How my father killed a cow with an airplane." So now I'm going to get that one written down too.

You probably don't remember, but back when we were in high school my father, besides being a fireman every other day, was part owner of a business with my uncle Les, who lived in Seattle and owned a sister company up there. My father's company was the American Shuffleboard Sales Co. of Northern Calif. Inc. What a mouth full. They jointly owned the distributorship for Northern Calif. which my father ran. Les had the distributorship for Washington and Oregon and he took care of that. My uncle had learned to fly in order to be able to more easily oversee his territory. He encouraged my father to do the same. My father's territory was quite large also, extending from the San Gabrielle Mountains just north of L.A to the Oregon border. They also made sales in Nevada and Arizona in later years.

My father learned to fly and joined the Alameda Flying Club which had several private planes at the airport in neighboring Hayward. One day my father flew one of the planes down to the airport in Fremont to practice "Touch and Go"s. It was a small airport, without a control tower, just one man worked there.

The approach to the runway was over a road, and between some trees at the airport fence. Usually power lines are buried in such locations. As my father came in on his approach to touch the runway and take off again, he suddenly saw the power lines coming from out of the trees on either side. It was too late to avoid hitting them. Fortunately he was not electrocuted. The propeller cut through one of the lines and my father proceeded to make a safe landing. The only damage to the plane was a notch in the propeller.

As my father got out of the plane, the man who worked at the airport came running up to him, but looking past him. My father turned around to see what was behind him. It was a grass fire at the fence. It had been started by the cut power line.

The airport employee and my father took some shovels that were nearby and eventually put out the fire. It was quite a job. They were resting and were each catching his breath, when a farmer walked up.

"Did one of you fellas kill my cow?" the farmer asked. He explained that one of his cows had been leaning against the barbed wire fence when the power line had touched it. The cow had been electrocuted.

My father admitted to being the responsible party and asked the farmer how much he wanted for the cow. It was a rather scrawny old cow, but the farmer wanted $200 for it. My father didn't feel that he was exactly in a position to bargain, so he paid the farmer the inflated price.

"Where do you want it?" the farmer asked.

"Oh, I don't want the cow." my father answered. "You can keep him."

"You bought her. She's yours now." the farmer answered. "I don't want her."

Of course my father didn't want the cow either, but the farmer couldn't be convinced to keep her. So my father called a friend, Frank, who worked for the shuffleboard shop. He asked Frank to bring one of the company pickup trucks out to the Fremont airport to haul the cow away.

Now a cow may not seem particularly long, but this one, at least, was about a head longer than the bed of the pickup that Frank brought. They got the cow in, but the head sort of dangled over the tailgate.

Frank and my father decided that they would take the cow to a slaughter house. They found one in the phone book at the airport and took the cow there.

The man at the slaughter house said that it was against the law for him to take a dead cow. He was sorry. He asked if the cow wasn't breathing just a little. Frank and my father had to admit that the cow was thoroughly dead, not breathing in the slightest, so they were out of luck.

They left the slaughter house and drove around aimlessly for a while. It was evening at this point and they had no idea where to go to get rid of the cow.

A California Highway Patrolman spotted the cow head hanging out of the back of the truck. He thought they were cattle rustlers and pulled them over. He asked where they had gotten the cow. My father explained how he had been flying the plane, hit the power line, how that started the fire and killed the cow. He explained how the farmer had not wanted the cow after he paid for it, and how the slaughter house wouldn't take a dead cow. The Highway Patrolman said, "You know, I don't believe you could have made up a story that crazy. I'm going to let you go."

So off they went, still wondering how to dispose of the cow. Then one of them had an idea. "I know, a bet Gabe Bishop would take this cow!" So they called up Gabe and asked if he could use a dead cow.

"Sure," he said, "Bring it over."

So they took the cow to Gabe's house and the three of them unloaded it in the driveway. Gabe planned to butcher it in the backyard. Frank asked if he wanted some help hauling it around to the back. "No thanks." said Gabe. "If it was daytime I might need some help, but I've done this at night by myself on several occasions."

So, that's the story of my father and the cow. I hope you enjoyed it. Take good care of yourself.


P.S. I should let both Linda check this over for style, etc., and let my father check it over for the finer details, but this is how I remember him telling it, and I want to get it off without further delay. garr.

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