Holy Cow The world goes crazy when a Wisconsin dairy cow begins exhibiting human intelligence.

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Mar 17, 2019 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

Editor’s note: This is a story that had been languishing in the back of my mind for several years. It’s about the economy, sanctity of life, world war, the human soul, and a cow named Clara. This story was begun on March 7, 2019 and was completed on March 17, 2019.

In the early morning hours of a cold and bleak December day, a meteor flamed through an overcast sky, landing near a dairy farm outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It was sparsely reported, and then forgotten, and no one ever made a connection to the strange story of Clara the Cow.

By the time the meteor hit the ground, Wesley Wheelis had been working for a couple of hours. He was too busy tending to his girls to notice such a thing, and so he didn’t. Wesley and his wife Wynona ran a small operation – certainly not one of those big factory farms that get all the government largesse. And so, with a few hired hands, they vaccinated their animals, fed them hay and corn, milked them, and bred them with carefully selected bulls. Female calves were allowed to mature for their milk; male calves that, of course, do not lactate were slaughtered for veal. Animal rights organizations didn’t much like anything that went on at the Wheelis Dairy Farm, but Wes and Wyn had made a life of it, and it all seemed natural to them.


About thirty days after the meteor struck, Wes began to notice something that was not so natural about one of his cows. He didn’t say anything about it to Wynona until one morning at breakfast.

“Somethin’s eatin’ you!” said Wyn with a focused glare.

Wes Wheelis took his coffee hot, strong, and black – and he sipped it, singeing his tongue. “Somethin’ is,” he said.

“You wanna talk about it?”

“I guess so. I haven’t been sure until now. But now I’m pretty sure.”

“What are you sure of?” she asked.

“You know that pretty Jersey that’s pregnant?”

“Yeah, I know the one.”

“She’s been talkin’ to me.”

“Like hell she has,” said Wyn. “Are you crazy?”

“I might be,” said Wes. “She can’t make words like you and me. But she’s telling me stuff for sure.”

“How long’s this been goin’ on?”

“Just a couple of weeks. It started with her nudging me, you know, to let her in or out of her stall, or pushing me over to the pitchfork to get her more hay, or corn, or whatever she wants.”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearin’. Are you telling me that this cow has got human intelligence?”

Wes paused and thought. “I can’t say for sure. But Clara’s awful smart.”

“Clara!” Wyn banged her fist on the table and three pieces of silverware fell to the floor. “You done went and named that cow? Wes, you know we gonna slaughter her when she stops producing. How are we gonna slaughter a cow you named?”

“Maybe we’ll slaughter her and maybe we won’t. I been thinkin’.”

“’Bout what?”

“’Bout callin’ the TV cable networks. They might be interested in doing a story about a smart cow like Clara.”

That’s how the hysteria started. Wesley Wheelis of the Wheelis Dairy Farm, called the two biggest TV cable networks –- Breaking News Network (BNN) and Lynx News Channel. Neither one had the least amount of interest. But the Sheboygan paper thought it would be a cute human-interest story. And so they sent a reporter out to interview the Wheelises.

By Lisa Lee
Special to the Sheboygan Daily Reporter

The Wheelis Dairy Farm has seen its share of milk cows over the past thirty years or so, but never anything like Clara the Cow. According to owners Wesley and Wynona Wheelis, Clara, as they call her, began communicating by nudging them with her muzzle. They believed this was intended to indicate that she wanted more grass or hay. But as the days have gone by, Clara has been communicating in a more direct manner. Now, say the Wheelises, she can say “yes” or “no” by mooing. She moos two times for yes, and one time for no. When asked if that doesn’t seem backwards from what one might expect, Wes Wheelis simply said, “That’s how she does it.”

Of course, the wire services picked up the story and soon it was fodder for late night radio talk shows like “West of the Rockies” where Wes and Wyn spent the better part of the midnight hours explaining to host Dick Dixon about Clara:

Dixon: We have the Wheelises for the hour, and next hour, they’ll be here to take your calls. First of all, Mr. Wheelis, where is Clara now and what is she doing?

Wes Wheelis: Call me Wes. She’s at the farm, probably watching TV.

Dixon: We have a bad connection. Did you say she’s watching…

Wyn Wheelis: She loves “Steal a Fortune.” She can sometimes guess the phrase before the players do.

Dixon: You’ve provided a TV set for your cow?

Wes: We felt it was the least we could do. She is with calf, and she gets bored sometimes.

Dixon: How do you know she likes “Steal a Fortune?”

Wyn: She moos two times when it comes on.

From the talk shows, the news of Clara the Cow and her human-like intellect spread around the globe. Even the Pope chimed in:

By Franz Fricker

Vatican City (AP): The Amalgamated Press has exclusively obtained a paper written by the Holy Father in which he seems to view the Wisconsin “Holy Cow” as a sign from Heaven that all life is sacred. In the paper, the Holy Father states emphatically that all sentient life is holy and that Clara the Cow must be respected and protected, including her calf. This drew a hasty response from NABORT, the North American Abortion organization, saying that the Church should stay out of the discussion. Clara’s fate, according to NABORT, is a choice that should be left up to the Wheelises and their veterinarian.

By this time, the Wheelis Dairy Farm was sprouting microwave dishes. BNN and Lynx News had live trucks there and so did BSNBC. All the network affiliates from Milwaukee and Chicago were there, and two of the channels were deploying helicopters that continuously circled the farm until they needed refueling. They were transmitting lots of bucolic cow shots, but not getting much of Clara who was safety tucked inside her barn watching high definition TV.

I’m Jones Jennings.

BNN has learned that Clara the Cow seems to be increasing in intelligence by the day, and that she is now able to use her hooves to spell out words. Our panel tonight consists of seventeen of the world’s greatest authorities on brainy bovines. Let’s start with Bob Brinkley. Dr. Brinkley, is Clara the Cow the first Jersey to achieve world fame?

Brinkley: Certainly not. There was Brown Bessie at the Chicago World’s Fair. She was a champion butter cow. There was Lily Flagg in Alabama back in 1892.

Jones: But were these cows smart like Clara? Howell Huntley is our expert on bovine intelligence. What about it?

Huntley: These were famous Jerseys, but neither of them were smart cows like Clara.

Jones: How smart is she, really?

Brinkley: To be honest, we don’t know. There will have to be scientific studies to reach a consensus. Dr. Huntley and I have offered to conduct a study…

Jones: Thank you Dr. Huntley and Dr. Brinkley. We will await your report. This is BNN, the most trusted name in speculation.

I’m Bart Baxter.

Lynx News has learned that People for the Ethical Treatment of Cows, Owls, and Walruses, PETCOW, is conducting a rally outside the Wheelis Dairy Farm to counter the NABORT rally that is taking place across the main road. While NABORT is contending that the fate of Clara – and her unborn calf – should be left up to the Wheelises and their vet, PETCOW is demanding that, if the calf turns out to be male, it should not be slaughtered for veal. According to PETCOW, veal is the cruelest of all meats since the calf is force-fed a liquid diet, not allowed to move about, and is slaughtered only a few weeks after being born. So who’s right? We bloviate; you decide. This is Lynx News, logical and commonsensical.

By this time, the Sheboygan Daily Reporter was being touted for a Pulitzer for breaking the story of Clara the Cow, the Pope was reiterating his stance on the sanctity of life, TV trucks were proliferating, Sheboygan hotel rooms were going for more than $1,000 per night, and Clara was getting smarter.

BNN, Lynx News and BSNBC finally got the Wheelises to allow them to submit Clara to an intelligence test on live TV, which is what got the government interested.

For her part, Clara didn’t know any better so she played along with the TV people. They came to the farm, set up lights and cameras inside the barn, and proceeded to set up some props they’d brought along. The BNN sound crew tried to put a wireless lavaliere on Clara, but since she didn’t wear clothes, they tried to clip it to her ear. When one of the soundmen asked his producer if a boom mike would be better, Clara mooed twice. The technician asked her why not — and she seemed to roll her eyes.

It was all played out on live TV, and Clara, who by this time had watched an awful lot of cable TV, performed admirably for the cameras. BNN’s Jones Jennings asked the first question:

“Clara, the world is watching you right now. Are you aware of how famous you’ve become?”

Clara mooed twice.

“You’re not?” asked Jennings.

“Two moos means ‘yes,’” yelled Wes from across the stall. “One moo means ‘no.’”

“Isn’t that backwards?” asked Jennings.

“Moo,” said Clara.

“That would be a ‘no,” said Lynx News’ Bart Baxter. “So Clara, are you following the latest news?”

Clara mooed twice, and so the pool reporters asked her about the stock market, global warming, and Middle East peace.

She mooed twice, once, and once respectively, which led BSNBC’s Harriet Helms to label her a Republican. Clara ignored Helms and took a bite of hay. This went on for a while until the cameras focused on the oversized set of building blocks that the network crew had set up.

“Clara,” said Bart Baxter, “we’ve taken the liberty of putting the twenty-six letters of the alphabet onto these blocks. Instead of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, we want you to answer by spelling out short words. Do you understand?”

To answer, Clara stepped to the blocks and used her muzzle to nudge the Y, the E, and the S. The reporters were impressed.

“So Clara, are you ready?” asked Baxter, and Clara mooed two times.

“I still think ‘yes’ should be one moo,” said Jennings. Clara mooed once in response.

The first question was about politics and what the President should do with the new Farm Bill. This may have been a trick question, but not being a factory farm, the Wheelises didn’t get much in the way of government largesse. Clara studied the blocks for a moment, and then nudged the letters V E T O.

“Amazing,” offered Helms, “and just like a Republican.” It was Baxter’s turn to ask his question, and he kept it simple as well.

“Clara,” can you spell out the name of your favorite football team?”

Clara mooed two times, and then starting nudging letters beginning with the L. When she was finished, Baxter said it made perfect sense that Clara would follow the Longhorns.

The touchy-feely question came from Harriet Helms, and it was the one that started the firestorm. “Clara,” she said, “what is the most important thing in your life right now?”

Without hesitation, Clara nudged the B, then the A, back to the B, and finally, the Y. “Your baby? Your unborn calf?” asked Helms, and Clara mooed two times.  The live broadcast from the Wheelis Dairy Farm just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin soon faded to black. But the story was just beginning.

The day after, Clara the Cow was a bigger sensation than ever. She was the headline in every major metropolitan newspaper in America and abroad, and every politician seemed to have a take on what it all meant. All three of the broadcast networks offered to fly Clara and the Wheelises to New York City to be on their profitable morning shows, but they declined. The Amalgamated Press was churning out stories as fast as it could:

By Franz Fricker

Vatican City (AP): According to the Holy See, Clara the Cow is a direct messenger from God, instructing all nations that they should respect the worth of every living thing. The Pope issued a statement based on last might’s explosive live television event from Wisconsin that Clara’s calf should not be slaughtered and should live out its life under the protection of the United Nations.

By Tom Tyler

San Francisco (AP): Vegans, meeting at the Cow Palace, are using the Holy Cow as evidence that it is wrong for one species to eat another, or to use the bodies of another species to manufacture consumer products. The Vegans will be marching through the streets of San Francisco demanding that their voices be heard.

By Roopa Roberts

New Delhi (AP): The story of Clara the Cow is being widely reported in this country due to the religious beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists and other faiths. Indian officials, speaking in the name of Krishna, have offered asylum in their country for both Clara and her calf once it is born.

By Cecile Cimmons

Washington, D.C (AP): The nation’s largest pro-abortion organization is rallying to the cause of “a cow’s right to choose” in the wake of blistering statements made by the Pope in favor of allowing Clara the Cow’s calf to be born. Apparently feeling threatened by both Clara and the Church, NABORT officials at first said that Clara is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, but confronted with tape of the live broadcast in which Clara spelled out the word “BABY,” those same officials noted that the Holy Cow appears to be Republican, and that veal is delicious when served with Pinot Grigio. PETCOW issued a statement in response to NABORT calling its board of directors extremists.

The world was lining up either for Clara – or against her, and there were some strange bedfellows. The Vatican was now in near complete agreement with the Hindu nations and PETCOW, but NABORT was aligned with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NABORT was, of course, concerned with what it called “choice,” while the NCBA was warning that if people stopped eating cattle, the world economy would go to hell. There were pro-cattle marches in France, protests at American meat markets, and a free-Bevo campaign in Austin.

It wasn’t long before agents from the FBI and the Agriculture Department marched into the Wheelis Dairy Farm with papers signed by a judge, and took Clara away. They kept her in protective custody for six months, and it was during that time that she delivered her calf. She named him “Buddy.”

Something else weird began to happen soon after Buddy the Bull was born. Clara stopped mooing once for “no” and twice for “yes.” She still mooed, but it seemed that she was simply mooing like any other cow. Without notifying the news media, Ag officials called in Wes and Wyn to come visit Clara and Buddy.

Finding both bovines in good health, Wes attempted to talk to Clara as he had done before. “Clara, do you know who I am?”

Clara ignored him.

“Clara, you bore us a beautiful calf and you named him Buddy. Is he your baby, Clara?”

Clara mooed once, and commended chewing on hay. Wes knew that she didn’t mean anything by that moo. For all intents and purposes, Clara was now a normal cow. A tear slowly trickled down Wyn’s face as government officials told her that Clara could go home. Dozens of tests had been run and Clara was no smarter than any other cow. Neither was Buddy.

The government, in conjunction with the Wheelis Dairy Farm, issued a statement and then held a news conference, attended by every news organization that could get credentialed.

Here is the Secretary of Agriculture, Gary Grimes.

Grimes: Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for coming. I’ll make a brief statement and then answer your questions. As you know, with world tensions rising, and with constant demonstrations outside the Wheelis Dairy Farm, we took Clara the Cow into government custody. Our hope was that the protests that had been going on around the world would dissipate and that we could run tests to determine what made Clara different from other cows. Fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, we found Clara to be intelligent for a cow, but to lack the human intellect that she became famous for. In short, if she ever had more intelligence than a normal cow, she doesn’t have it anymore. Yes, Bart…

Bart Baxter (Lynx News): You’re saying this was a “Flowers for Algernon” deal? She lost her ability to reason, and now she’s just like any other cow?

Grimes: We’re saying she is just like any other cow.

Harriet Helms (BSNBC): Are NABORT and PETCOW in agreement with your research?

Grimes: We didn’t consult them. Yes ma’am…

Lisa Lee (Sheboygan Reporter): As you know, my paper broke the story using hard evidence. Are you seriously telling us that Clara is a normal cow after what we all saw and heard?

Grimes: Yes, we are. We studied a tape of the live television broadcast and concluded that her “answers” were most likely nothing more than flukes. She was nudging letters at random and they happened to spell words.

Jones Jennings (BNN): What will happen to Clara now?

Grimes: If the Wheelises will come forward, please. The decision — I guess you could say “choice” – is up to them.

Wes Wheelis: We’re going to let Clara live out her days on our farm. Buddy the Bull, too.

Wyn Wheelis: Clara may be just another cow, but she’s special to us.

Bart Baxter: Since this news leaked, the marches in France have dwindled and the Pope has been silent. Do you see a return to the status quo?

Grimes: If you’re asking if the cattle and dairy industries can return to normalcy, we think so. Even if Clara was a very smart cow, which we doubt very much, she was a one-off. We’re calling on all sides to stop fighting over this and get on with your lives.

Harriet Helms: So Clara wasn’t a Republican after all?

And so the story of Clara the Holy Cow slowly faded from the news to be replaced by war, famine, politics and other mundane facts of life. Months passed, and Clara’s life on the Wheelis Dairy Farm was a cow’s dream. She enjoyed a beautiful pasture, plenty of hay, time with Buddy, and she was no longer lactating.

Wes and Wyn made sure to keep her stall clean and stocked with hay and they even installed bug zappers to keep flies from pestering her.

“I don’t exactly understand all this,” said Wynona one evening while they were petting Clara and brushing her down.

“I’ve thought about it ever since we brought her home,” said Wes. “Look at what one super-smart cow did to the world. For a while, it was nation against nation, religion against religion, and that whole sanctity-of-life thing. And I swear, if the cattle industry had crashed, the Wheelis Dairy Farm would have gone bankrupt and the entire world economy would have tanked. It could have started the next world war.”

“Maybe Clara’s smarter even than we all thought. Maybe she knew that.”

“Or maybe the feds explained it all to her. Maybe they cut some kind of a deal with her.”

“You mean to keep all this bad stuff from happenin’ – another Great Depression or war?”

“What about it, Clara?” said Wes. “Did they offer to let you and your calf come home in return for you pretendin’ not to be smart anymore? Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with us.”

Clara stopped chewing, and Wes could have sworn that she was deep in thought. She was all set for the night, so Wes hung the brush on its hook and he and Wyn closed the barn door.

On the way to the pickup they both thought they heard a noise coming from Clara’s stall. “She just mooed twice, didn’t she?” said Wyn.

“I didn’t hear a thing,” said Wes. He started the truck and they headed for home.


© 2019 by Lynn Woolley. All rights reserved.

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