Ryder sat on the porch, on a whitewashed, reclining Adirondack chair. Ryder wore a black felt cowboy hat and beat-up brown leather vest. His hair was in a disarray and a tuft of it stood up constantly no matter how much he tried to press it down.
One hand rested gently upon the right arm of the chair, and the other held an antique pipe filled with burning tobacco. He let out a large cloud of smoke, briefly pretending to be a dragon. There was a moment of stillness. The bugs and birds in the surrounding fields sung the never-ending song of summer.
He moved one foot on top of the other and crossed his legs. His face contained so many valleys and depressions that a miniature Civil War battle could easily be fought on it.
The man took another puff, slowly sucking the warm air out of the pipe and keeping it inside for a few seconds until it started to burn. Off in the distance, there was a hollow tapping sound. Ryder had heard it before.
“Must be a woodpecker,” he mumbled quietly. Talking to himself provided the rare opportunity to converse with someone who never lied or argued. It was relaxing.
He listened, and heard a different sound. Then it stopped. It was so quiet, it almost didn’t exist.
“Must be makin’ it up,” he thought. “My ears ring sometimes anyways.”
He uncrossed his legs and shook one foot from side to side slowly. There was the sound of a car off in the distance.
“Bet the preacher is comin’ home from his church meeting,” Ryder thought. “Sounds like his car.”
Ryder took a pinch of the material in his jeans and rubbed it back and forth, listening to the rough scratching fabric sound. He always made sure all his clothes were tough and durable.
“Wonder how the meeting went. Wonder if he’ll ever get that roof fixed proper.” Ryder remembered when a torrent of water started to pour directly on Old Lady Marie’s head halfway through the Sunday service.
Then, there was the sound again. Quiet, but existent. Ryder put out his pipe and stood himself up, holding onto the chair arms. He walked around the perimeter of his house to the opposite side, through the shuffling grass.
“Darn you, Pete Miller,” he said, becoming increasingly angry. As he turned the last corner, he saw just what he had expected.
Eight of Pete Miller’s cows stuck their heads as far as they could go through the fence, just barely able to reach Ryder’s freshly-painted wall. They stuck their tongues out and took huge, wet licks on the side of the house. From their expression, you could tell they were enjoying the experience.
“Get off my wall, cows!” yelled Ryder. Suddenly, the screen over the lowest window was bent and then taken off by the combined force of three cow tongues.
Ryder clapped loudly, and yelled again. The cows backed out of the fence hole and managed not to get injured by the barb wire. They ran away awkwardly, since cattle lack the natural grace of horses.
“Them cows will lick my house till the Second Coming and afterwards,” thought Ryder, angrily. He jogged around to the front door, entered the house, and grabbed the truck keys.
“Pete Miller’s got somethin’ coming for him,” thought Ryder. “If he don’t move that fence, I’m gonna kick his ass to where the sun don’t shine.“
After a five minute drive around the bend, Ryder arrived at his neighbor’s house. He turned the truck off and stepped out. There was nobody on the porch. Ryder kicked the dirt and walked up to the front door, knocking loudly.
“Who is it?” asked Pete’s wife, Martha. Pete was nowhere to be seen. The door opened and Martha stood behind it. She was overweight, with brown curly hair and an apron. There was a smell of freshly-baked bread lingering in the air.
“Go get Pete, tell him his cows are licking my house again.”
“What?” asked Martha, clueless.
“Where is he?”
Martha walked a short ways over to the basement door and yelled for Pete. After a good while, he heard footsteps. Ryder was quite impatient.
“Pete, your cows have been up to no good,” declared Ryder solemnly.
“They’ve been licking my house again. Every time I lay down for a minute of rest from all the work I do, there they go again, lickin’ and lickin’. They’ll lick right through to the inside of the house if we let this go on any longer.”
“I’ve told ya before, neighbor. I don’t know why you would make this stuff up. Cows only lick each other. I’ve never seen anything like that in my whole life.”
Ryder had a disgusted expression on his face. His skin turned a shade redder.
“I’m sick of all this, Pete. Hell would freeze over before I would lie about something this obscene! If you’re so sure of this, why don’t you come over and see with your own eyes?”
“Sure. Might as well,” replied Pete sarcastically.
They left and got in the truck.
“Yep. Don’t know what’s so wrong with them,” said Ryder, cooling down somewhat. Pete was quiet.
“I just don’t want to pay any repairs. This is a new house.”
“I still don’t believe you,” repeated Pete.
A few minutes later, they were back at Ryder’s. Walking through the weeds and tall grass, they got to the back of the house.
Huge sections of the new brown paint was abraded off as if it had been sandpapered. There were a few small clumps of hair hanging on the fence, too, which was bent slightly from the heavy weight of the bovines sticking their necks through it. The new window screen was laying on the ground, bent and broken. Fifty yards away, the cattle grazed innocently.
“How the heck do you know that was from the cows and not the last storm?” argued Pete.
“It just happened ten minutes ago; that’s why.”
Pete called his cow Bossie and she came walking slowly towards him.
“Look here– I will ask her myself.” As she walked up to him, Pete asked Bossie in a mocking voice:
“Did you do this?”
She snorted and sniffed his hand, her mouth tinged heavily with brown paint.