Posted by keelsetter on August 8, 2010
Exactly one week ago today I was in a clear green field near an aspen grove here in Colorado, staring down at a suspiciously mutilated cow. Aside for a few flies, nothing else was near it. Oblivious to its gender I dubbed it “Fred.” My girlfriend and I took some pictures and we continued along on our hike. Less than an hour later we returned along the same path only to bear witness to one of the most bizarre things either of us had ever seen: a bunch of Fred’s pals – PREVIOUSLY far afield and seemingly (and understandably) avoiding the poor, dead beast – were NOW suddenly swirling about Fred’s carcass in a frenzy, like white-on-rice or flies-on-poop. They were jumping on top of each other and pushing one another around in an almost perfect circular pattern, trampling about on poor, dead, Fred. I’ve seen my share of punk shows, but this was one slow-motion-mosh-pit-from-hell scene I’ll never forget. There was something so downright unnatural about this spectacle that both my girlfriend and I immediately got the heebie-jeebies.
To honor the weirdness that occurred one week ago today, today’s blog looks at how a movie buff digests such a strange event.
When I got back home, I immediately told my parents what happened. They basically said, “You watch too many movies.” Which is true. Those same films would now instruct me that this is the scene where everyone thinks I’m nuts and next thing you know I’m playing with my mashed potatoes like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Before I slip down the rabbit-hole of paranormal films, let me touch on the horror films that convey how I felt a week ago today: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm (1976), Joe “Bud” Cardos’ Kingdom of the Spiders (1977 – starring William Shatner!), and Stuart Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror (1979). Why? Because it’s all in the numbers. When you see one bird, or worm, or tarantula, or a fly – well, that’s certainly no reason to freak out (except, of course, in the case of the tarantula). But when you suddenly see too many of these critters all in one place – and acting very oddly to boot – that’s when even Capt. Kirk starts to get a bad case of ring-around-the-collar.
Back to my cows…
Now that I’m in full Richard-Dreyfuss-doing-the-mashed-potato mode, it’s off to the internet. (On a side-note, looking for weird information in the seventies made you feel like a reporter about to crack Watergate – going to libraries, and tracking down hard-to-find people. Looking for weird information nowadays feels like… well, every single morning where I’m still playing with Google in my jammies.) There I find that the very first recorded and strange case of livestock mutilation occurred near Alamosa, Colorado, in 1967. It involved a horse whose neck had been “skinned and defleshed” along with “a greenish fluid which burned the hand,” plenty of radiation, and “tapering, circular exhaust marks punched into the ground” – and this all within a 5000 square yard area. Later, they found that the brain and abdominal organs were missing. It goes on, and gets even weirder.
For today’s post, I was originally hoping to watch just ONE cattle mutilation film and then give it a review. I asked around for suggestions, and the one that seemed the best was recommended to me by Ron Henderson, founder of the Denver Film Festival. He recommended a documentary on cattle mutilation called A Strange Harvest (1980), which they premiered at the festival, and which he said was “actually pretty fascinating, as I recall.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those pesky out-of-print and “only on VHS” titles that, sadly was not available at any of the local video/dvd rental joints. A handful were available on Amazon for about $40 – and an order has been placed (but won’t arrive in time for this post, obviously). For those wanting a taste, a small clip can be seen here:
Wikipedia does a pretty good job of listing memorable pop-culture references to cattle mutilation that include War of the Worlds, South Park, Mars Attacks!, X-Files, and various video games and even wrestling moves! On IMDB, surprisingly, only 13 titles popped up and they are (in chronological order): Home on the Range (1946), The Return (1980), Endangered Species (1982), Critters (1986), two Japanese documentaries (both 1989), Fatal Sky (1990) Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County and Alien Avengers II (both 1998 and tv deals), UFO’s: The Secret Evidence (2005), one episode from the TV series Supernatural called Bloodlust, Evil Aliens (both 2005). This was using the IMDB key-word search, which I find suspect because it totally skips over George Kuchar’s 1983 film called… Cattle Mutilation. It’s all in the tag. Speaking of tags, cow ears get tagged – and they are a critical component to the mystery I originally dubbed “Cattle Weirdness” when sharing my experience with friends on FaceBook. As I’ve been fascinated by the many reactions (and possible explanations) that came in response, I’ve decided to share that FB thread via screenshots that I’ve made available here:
And, if by this point you’re not totally sick of cows, there is a long-winded follow-up that I dubbed Cowpocalypse Now that can be read below. It was originally meant for friends-only, so please excuse the smart-ass tone I allowed myself – it’s an obnoxious state that happens to be my default setting:
To end on a light note and shift from cows to Coppola, my favorite Apocalypse Now parody is a short called Porklips Now, which can be seen here:
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