One sunny day when I was twelve years old, my mother called me out of my leisurely daydream to help her with a cow that had just given birth. I didn't think much of it at the time. It just seemed a natural event in the farm life of my family. Now 60 years later, the events of that day are chiseled in my memory as the beginning of a life-changing learning experience.
Mother noticed a young heifer cow had given birth to her first calf in the barn yard. She asked me to put the cow and her calf in the barn for more safety. There had been rumors of coy dogs in the neighborhood.
Lackadaisically, I swung myself over the fence into the barn yard. I opened the barn door and circled back to herd the cow towards it. She began side stepping, turning towards me and lowering her head. Then as if in slow motion, all 1,500 pounds of her began to charge at me. I was near enough to the fence to easily swing myself over it and retreat to safety.
I was stunned. I had grown up with cows. I always felt safe around them. I loved moving between their large warm bodies, feeling their short smooth hair. To be charged at like by some bull in a rodeo show was a first.
Mom said, "Aw, just leave her there. It's her first calf. She is still hormonal." Feeling free to return to my own pursuits, I didn't give it another thought.
The following spring as the weather warmed, I began my favorite pastime of roaming the open fields. One day, I was crossing the wide-open pasture behind the farm buildings.
I suddenly froze in fear. Amidst the larger herd of cows in the distance, that same cow had begun to charge towards me. This time, there was no fence close by, only open pasture in every direction.
As her 1,500 pounds came thundering at me, I heard the screen door of the farmhouse slam in the distance. My older brother's voice screamed, "Run at her, Run at her!"
My mind was an impenetrable siren, but somehow, my thin little legs got the message and began pounding on the new wet grass, carrying me directly at the oncoming cow. There was nothing else in my awareness; no thought; nothing but that cow and the swiftly decreased distance between us. In no time at all, an eternity past.
Then, she suddenly veered away and began calmly into grazing again. I retreated with a silent mind and a pounding heart.
The following year, I continued my habits of roaming in the open pastures and she continued charging me. I continued to respond by running towards her with decreasing fear. Each time the distance between us diminished before she veered off to resume grazing. I kept doing it until it just didn't happen anymore.
I kept roaming, but there was no longer a problem with the cow. I honestly don't remember if she quit charging or if my family decided to "put her in the freezer." That incident has stayed with me all my life. How profound my brother's response to fear was. "Run at her!" It was an intentional action to not be frightened by her.
Running from her would have been sure defeat. She could have easily out run me. With something to chase, she would have been spurred on to overtake me.
In that experience my body-mind received a profound lesson about how to meet fear.