Author photo time. My publisher wants me to send them a picture of my ugly mug. Granted, being photogenic isn’t a big prerequisite for being a writer, but I’ve never taken a decent picture in my life, even when I was young and thin. I always hated posing, always hated my smile.
It briefly crossed my mind to hire a photographer and throw a bunch of cash their way to make me look as good as possible. But somehow, the idea of getting dressed up and gazing intellectually into a camera just wasn’t me. My mother also suggested I should cut my hair to better fit what her definition of a writer was. Then again, even though I’m in my 40s, she’s been hounding me to cut my hair for years.
Then my wife said, "Since your novel is about cows, you should have your picture taken with a bunch of them."
What a great idea! After a week or two of trying to find someone we know who actually owns cows (I live in Portland, hardly a mecca for livestock), Michelle, a friend of my wife, offered to let us go to her parents’ dairy farm for a photo shoot. So one Saturday, armed with the family digital camera, we ventured about 25 miles to this farm.
In writing the book, I learned a few things about cows (mostly how bad they smell), but had never frolicked among them. I’m a city boy. The closest I’d ever been to one was the meat department at Safeway. So as I headed into the pasture with Michelle, continually side-stepping cow pies, I was nervous. Cows are huge, and smell far worse up close than they do driving by with the window down. Michelle assured me I’d be okay, as long as I approached them with my head down in order to appear submissive. Trust me, looking submissive is no problem when approaching an animal four times your size.
Michelle shot the pictures, guiding like a pro photographer and urging me to really get close to the herd. She suggested offering some grass to one, which I did before turning to pose with them. A few of the more curious cows soon approached. One started licking my arm. Yuck! Cow tongues aren’t slimy like a dog’s, they’re rough and abrasive, like being licked by a thousand pound cat. While I was basted in slobber and snot, Michelle clicked away and my wife laughed her butt off.
Then the cow decided my clothes were worth tasting. It took in a mouthful of my best Hawaiian shirt and started tugging. Oh my God, she’s trying to eat me!
"Okay, we’re done!" I announced, yanking my shirt from its mouth and stepping into a fresh pie as I backed away. The herd scattered at my sudden movement. Michelle laughed, and since she grew up on this farm, probably thought I was a wussy.
I like cows. Everything about them is funny. But from now on, I think the closest I’ll get to one ever again is on my barbecue. Call me a wuss if you will, but for a brief second, I was worried Killer Cows was about to become non-fiction.