"Roman Catholic Cow"
Father O'Reilly is the Roman Catholic priest at St. Thomas's church near downtown Beloit. One year he calls up Daddy.
"Ron," he says, "every year we have a big bazaar down here, a big carnival, in our church basement, to raise money. It lasts for three days, from ten in the morning till ten at night, and a couple thousand people come. This year we're selling space to local merchants, to set up their displays and advertise their wares. Can I reserve you a space?"
"Father," responds Daddy, "the only way I can use your space is if I bring you a cow."
Father O'Reilly doesn't even hesitate. "Ah, Ron, that's a splendid idea," he says, "but it'll cost you two spaces. Tell you what, I'll give you a discount on the second one."
Daddy argues. He tells Father O'Reilly the dimensions of a stall. He says he'll bring down his smallest cow, who he is sure can be fitted into one space unless she's allotted only a table top. He points out that he's running a real risk, exposing a naive Methodist cow who has never left home to the Whore of Babylon. Father O'Reilly laughs and signs Daddy up for one space.
Fair time arrives, and Daddy and a hired man transport a gentle Guernsey cow down to the church. She's sleek and handsome and named T-12, but Daddy paints a sign to go on her pen, calling her Bathsheba. They fit her up with sawdust bedding, and a salt block, and hay and water and a sack of grain from which she will get her daily scoops. Daddy hires a boy to stay near her and shovel up her cow pies when she makes them, and carry away the wet sawdust when she pees. The boy also sells half pints of Dougans chocolate milk to the fairgoers.
All during the carnival Bathseba looks out at the crowds with soft brown eyes. Sometimes she eats hay; sometimes she lies down and chews her cud. Every morning early a barn hand drives downtown to milk her, and Father O'Reilly unlocks the church basement and lets him in. Bathsheba moos a quiet welcome from among the still displays. Afternoons, Daddy does the milkings. He wears a white cap and apron, and black boots, and makes the milk zing into the pail as the crowds press round the pen. He squirts milk into children's mouths with fine accuracy. After Bathsheba is finished, Jackie and Craig pour her warm milk into paper cups. Whoever wishes can have a drink.
When they aren't busy at the pen, Jackie and Craig wander among the many booths and exhibits, and eat doughnuts and cotton candy. They feel strange to be in a Roman Catholic church, even if it is the basement. It doesn't seem very different from the Methodist Church basement, although Craig points out a calendar where Jesus's heart is outside his body, with rays coming out from it.
The final day Daddy rounds up a lot of children under twelve to enter a milking contest. They sit awkwardly on the three-legged stool and hold the tits as if they are hot. Daddy instructs them. But one girl needs no instruction. She settles onto the stool, presses her head into Bathsheba's belly, and milks like a pro. Daddy recognizes her; she's the daughter of the one Roman Catholic family in Turtle Township. He gives her a prize of a book of milk tickets that she can exchange for chocolate milk.
Throughout the carnival Bathsheba is the center of attraction. She's a model guest, placid and well behaved. The Beloit Daily News comes and takes her picture during the milking contest, and it makes the front page. The headline reads, "HOLY COW!" Daddy and Father O'Reilly and everybody are well pleased. Bathsheba is invited back for next year.
In only one way does she cause any problem. Though the carnival is in progress, upstairs in the church the services continue on schedule. Father O'Reilly celebrates daily masses. These are quiet affairs and Bathsheba is not aware of them, nor are the worshippers aware of a cow's presence below. But on the last day of the carnival there is a wedding. The organ booms out with the wedding march. Bathsheba stretches her neck, raises her voice, and bellows along. When the organ plays "Ave Maria," Bathsheba's voice is louder than the soloist's. And when the organ starts the recessional, Bathsheba fairly trumpets down the house. It's not a wedding that anyone will soon forget.
Back home, Bathsheba settles into the round barn routine as if she'd never been away. Fame and bright lights haven't turned her head. She's the same sweet and unspoiled bovine that she was before she became a celebrity.
When Daddy shows any visitors through the round barn he points her out. "All of our cows are Methodist," he says, "except for that one apostate. That is Bathsheba, our Roman Catholic cow."