Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rumors about my Uncle Willard and a Black Cow named Cindy

I don’t like bestiality—humans having sexual relations with animals. What I mean is that I don’t appreciate it as a conversation topic, not that I don’t personally engage in the act. The latter goes without saying. I should qualify this statement a bit. I actually don’t mind the subject of bestiality coming up in social discourse if it’s in jest. For example, if you were to say something like “The nice thing about my cats is that after the loving’s done, they don’t call their girlfriends about it” or “I like chimpanzees in the way you’re not supposed to like chimpanzees,” I wouldn’t get all over you, as if you’ve violated some social taboo. I realize you’re saying these things tongue-in-cheek. I know humor when I hear it, as do most people with any kind of wit. They can tell from the context, or maybe by the outlandishness, that you’re making a joke.

Last week I told friends at Chuck’s retirement party that—and this is the setup—because the coming winter is going to be an especially cold one, I’m gearing up for a lot of three-dog nights. Then the punch line would follow: I just hope our house isn’t full of half-human puppies come springtime! No-one except me really laughed, aloud anyway, but I think they liked my humor; they’re probably using this joke themselves, which would explain why they didn’t even crack a smile when I told it: they didn’t want to look like they enjoyed it too much because they were already planning on stealing it. I can’t blame them, and I don’t mind if they don’t credit me for it. It’s some of my best material and if I ever decided to go into standup comedy I’d save it for last. Bestiality, after all, should be a subject of ridicule. We should laugh about such disgusting things and not let them bother us.

The problem is my uncle Willard. He visits the old homestead, my grandparents’ farm, on the weekends. Rumor has it that he has a fondness for a particular black cow named Cindy, and by fondness I mean sexual attraction, be it love or lust. This is anything but funny, it’s repulsive, and when someone tells a bestiality joke, I’m partly laughing, but I’m also thinking about my uncle Willard. My brother-in-law has speculated that the name of the cow, my grandmother’s choice, is at least partially responsible for enticing my uncle to do, or allegedly do, things he would never do otherwise. He thinks the name Cindy is too sexy for a cow. I tend to agree. Maybe it connotes a starlet or exotic dancer in my uncle’s mind. I don’t know for sure. This might not be only about Cindy, though. Uncle Willard’s restless heart had been wandering for years, I suspect.

My dad and his friend Jerry both have an interesting hypothesis: when Uncle Willard was a kid he used to go cow-tipping, but he didn’t quite understand what the term meant. (Jerry goes a bit further in his insistence that my uncle did not go all the way with Cindy. I don’t know enough about the subject to understand what he means by that. What irritates me is that Jerry doesn’t really know, but he’s trying to protect my uncle. That’s noble to a certain extent, but it’s unhelpful when trying to ascertain the truth. Jerry got mad when I asked him, “What? Were you hiding somewhere and watching them?”) Another idea, now referred to as the incremental theory by those of us concerned, is that someone dared my uncle to do the deed with a cow and it became a habitual act over time. That is to say, it might have started with one cow “innocently” enough, but as he became a teenager his lustful attraction escalated and, gradually, he engaged in more liaisons with a greater number of cattle and with increased frequency. My daughter once added—and I thought this was particularly clever—he was continually seeking greener pastures. In this thesis, Cindy is only the latest conquest, albeit perhaps a more long-term relationship in my uncle’s sickening long line of reluctant (or indifferent?) four-legged partners.

All I know is that my uncle seemed so happy when we saw him last year at the family Christmas party. My wife made the comment that Willard looked like a million bucks in his snakeskin boots and Christmassy turtleneck sweater. I thought Uncle Willard, having lost twenty to thirty pounds, bore a faint resemblance to the actor Rory Calhoun in his latter years. He appeared to have overcome his earlier bouts with depression and addiction to painkillers. Although my uncle was obviously no younger than he had been the previous couple of years, he had lost his haggard appearance. The family had worried about him after Gladys, his second wife, finally succumbed to a congenital heart defect almost three Julys ago now. Did she ever know about his bovine trysts? What about Betty, his first wife, for that matter? Betty was actually half Cherokee and so might have been more attuned to the dictates of nature. Perhaps a better question, one that looks to the future, is whether Cindy has somehow turned him around. I guess I can’t begrudge him finding happiness. I choose to see the positive. For instance, if Uncle Willard had gotten involved with a bull instead of a cow, or with Sam, our 12-year-old Old English Sheepdog, the family would have taken the news with even greater hardship. (But you can be damn sure that, unlike Cindy, Sam would not tolerate my uncle’s advances!)

I suppose I’ve violated the “need to know” rule here, but I brought up my uncle to make a point. If you’re referring to bestiality to be funny, I’ll probably laugh my pants off. But if you’re talking about it in a serious way, I’ll inevitably think about my uncle and become uncomfortable. If I get fidgety or become sullen, don’t take it personal.