I offered to help out by accompanying a suburban kindergarten class on the children’s first visit to a farm.
The teacher was a lively young woman who was not a bit disturbed by the antics of her young charges — 47 angels and not a halo in the bunch.
I saw that a few other mothers had also been conscripted for this outing. It must have been their first visit to a farm too. They were wearing sandals — white ones.
As the teacher called the roll, anonymous heads popped up in response to their names. I chose six and boarded the waiting school bus. They scrambled on ahead of me, and all dove for the same seat. I got them untangled only to discover I no longer had the original six. The teacher assured me they were all there. I just wondered if I was.
The noise was deafening.
“Look it, look it, look it.”
A little way down the road, one child spied a lone horse standing beside some hay bales. “Here we are. There’s the dairy farm.”
As the bus rolled past, our young tour guide quickly accounted for his mistake.
“Well, it sure smelled like one.”
At last the bus rumbled down the gravel road to the farm.
First stop, the pig barns.
“Phew. That’s even worse than my big brother’s socks.”
“Boy, that mama pig is fat. Does she eat lots and lots?”
“Sure, that’s how come she’s a pig.”
“You don’t have to say it so loud. See, she’s looking right at you.”
After a little while, we trekked along to the next enclosure. The teacher said they were beef cattle, or “boy cows.”
Somebody discovered the granddaddy of them all reclining in his stall.
“Now, boys and girls, this is the daddy cow. Can you tell me what he’s called?” asked the teacher.
“Elmer?” suggested a timid voice from the crowd.
As we trooped along to the dairy barn, one young fellow wanted to take a shortcut.
“Don’t go through there,” shouted a little girl. “That’s where the cows go to the bathroom.”
The Holsteins gazed at the class.
“Look, teacher, they’re all chewing gum,” one of the children said.
The whole class watched this strange phenomenon while the teacher explained about how cows chew their cuds. Suddenly one cow did the unpardonable.
One poor little kid was so traumatized he almost created a stampede among his classmates.
“Is it going to moo again? Is it?”
I tried to reassure him.
“But that’s one’s getting mad. She’s switching her tail,” the boy said as he tried to hide behind me. “Is it going to bite, Mrs. Barkman? Is it?”
“Let’s just stand quietly and watch the milking, OK?” I told him.
At this point, the children were not quite sure which end merited the most attention: the noise-maker or the dairy bar.
“Does she make chocolate milk too?” one child said.
“Don’t be silly,” replied a classmate. “She isn’t even a brown cow.”
I explained that all cows give white milk.
“Then how come some chickens lay brown eggs?”
I am glad the teacher interrupted. It was time to board the bus.
On the way home we sang umpteen verses of Old MacDonald Had A Farm.
He had just added a very vocal billy goat to his menagerie when the bus pulled up at the school, thus ending Lesson One on bovine behaviour —kindergarten level.
I think I passed.