Personal Journey: In Grenada, running with the cow

Looks like paradise, but who knows what aggressive killer cows lurk among those palms? The secluded, or so he thought, beach surrounded by jungle where the writer stayed in Grenada.
Looks like paradise, but who knows what aggressive killer cows lurk among those palms? The secluded, or so he thought, beach surrounded by jungle where the writer stayed in Grenada. (SEAN CARNEY)

He wanted to pet the bovine on the beach. She was not amused.

Posted: April 14, 2014

It was December 2013 when my plane dropped from the sky. We collectively clenched, wondering if our seat cushions really floated, and slammed down onto what I hoped was the runway. The pilot's voice filled the cabin.

"We made it!"

The woman next to me squeezed my hand and I thought, "Were we not supposed to?"

When we passed several goats penned alongside the runway, I realized this was just how one landed on the tiny island of Grenada.

Grenada is in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, about 90 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It's famous for the U.S.-led invasion in 1983, which revealed communications, coordination, and intelligence problems in the military that left soldiers using Hertz Rent-A-Car maps to get around. Grenada has evolved in the last 30 years, it's been relatively off the grid to tourists. I had arranged to stay 40 minutes outside town, on a secluded beach surrounded by jungle.

My driver was named "Mr. Boney" - a name fit for a child's cat, or a skeleton. We whipped past ramshackle shops, slums, and aluminum-topped huts. Skinny dogs slinked along the gutters beside men stumbling shirtless from makeshift side-of-the-road rum saloons.

My first day, I ventured to a remote cove and spotted a cow grazing just off the beach. Few would consider cows wild animals and I've always known them to be harmless, docile creatures - the Canadians of the animal world. Before I could stop myself, an overwhelming urge to pet her took over.

Two steps later, the cow bucked her hind legs out and charged at me. Barefoot and horrified, I fled squealing into the sea.

"Stop it! Stop it! Ahhhhh! Help! Cow!"

If ever being chased by a cow, screaming "Cow!" does little to sound the alarm. Perhaps it's the singular nature of the word, since yelling "Stampede" might have gotten some attention. But on the imminent-danger scale, "Cow!" was on the level of "Kitten!"

Crashing into the surf, I realized I didn't know if cows could swim. Regardless, I didn't think I had it in me to drown a cow - the process seemed too personal, like stabbing someone. Give me a gun and I'd shoot it in the back from a distance, but something about holding a cow's head under water felt wrong.

I was trapped.

The sun rose higher and I began burning in the water, a painful irony. On shore, the cow had wandered back to the grass for a snack and I took off screaming. The young honeymooners must have been surprised by the red man running toward them. Was this some poor, wretched castaway?

" Run! Cow! Will kill us all! Ahhhhh!"

I blew past them in a flash, heading toward Philadelphia.

Days later, I drove back over the same mountain road I'd arrived on - past the ramshackle shops, slums, and aluminum-topped huts. Only when the plane lifted off did I close my eyes and smile, squeezing the hand of the woman next to me, whispering:

"We made it."


Sean Carney writes from Philadelphia.

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