conditions, bad weather climbing, etc… But never did we think real injury would come in the manner it did a few nights ago.
What so often begins as good fun can quickly turn ugly, at this point luck can play a role, followed by either a helicopter flight/foreign country emergency room visit, or in this case, a funny story. We prefer the “Funny Later” variety of close calls, of which we have many.
There is a small lake in the Austrian Alps we had been wanting to visit for some photos. Perfect weather arrived and we were in the area, so off we went up the 1000 meter, 2 hour approach. Arriving early, we laid out in the sun before the good evening light. Soon we were surrounded by dairy cows curious as to the taste of our salty backpacks. They hung around a bit then wandered off to complete the utopia-like Austrian Alp scene. It was both a perfect evening for our shoot and to just be in the mountains.
As the light began to improve we began shooting, Janine walked the shoreline of the lake and I shot what would surely be beautiful photos in this perfect landscape.
This is when things changed, our friendly cows moved into the scene, surrounded Janine, and jockeyed for position to be included in our photos. “Fine, they make a lovely addition”, I thought. Snapping a few more images with the cows accesorizing the stock seemed a great idea. Soon, we tired of having them about and Janine tried to lead them away. Where she went, they followed, and this is when things went terribly wrong.
Suddenly, the energy was turning from playful fun to bovine aggression. But these are cows! Furry ears, innocent eyes, gentle expression cows no less. Not this group. Like a feeding frenzy they moved in, I could hear Janine telling them to go away. As she was engulfed in their mass, she disappeared, then I saw she was on the ground, beneath them, getting drug about. Just as quickly her body flung up into the air above them all and like a rag doll she dropped back into the herd.
Dropping everything, I ran towards the mob scene like a Samurai warrior, swinging my ultralight carbon fiber trekking poles for all I was worth. I entered the group at full speed, they rotated their giant heads a few centimeters in anticipation of battle. Their fuzzy ears twitching to keep the flies away seemed anything but fearful of my wrath. I vaguely remember one’s tongue darting into her nostrils. Janine was screaming, again on the ground. I beat the cow atop her with my poles but it was like trying to stop a freight train with a fly swatter. Mooing, cow bells, and our screams could probably be heard for many kilometers.
The lead cow turned, left Janine behind, and charged me. It is amazing how fast such a gangly animal can move. All 132 lbs of me took her massive skull and 900 lb bulk square in the chest. To say I was knocked down is an understatement, I was driven into the earth like a meteor, but like Janine was thankfully not stepped on. She continued to ram me, I was able to get away, rise and then back she came. Suddenly I was gaining elevation, floating in the air, and the thought, “When will I come down?” actually had time to enter my mind. OOomph, into the grass I fell.
I had had it. Janine was safely out of the scene now and yelling for me to just run. But this kid doesn’t run from a dairy cow, maybe a grizzly, or a wolf, but a cow? I decided the only option that remained was to go insane. And so I tapped into some deep rooted lunacy and became a madman, swinging my arms and swatting their asses – this seemed to do the trick, the cows began to think better of the situation. I may be small, but I am very, very loud. Their raisin sized brains responded to the mayhem by running, fortunately in the opposite direction.
Soon we were sitting in the grass in perfect evening light, shaking from the fight, but also laughing at the absurdity. An eery silence, splintered carbon fiber, lots of hoof marks, and more than a few cowpies were all that remained in the battlefied.
Now you know the real behind the scenes stories of our work…
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