It was late October, and Butch and Buster, my two friends, had come to visit after school. They weren’t farm boys. They had grown up in the backwoods of a state further east, so when it came to cattle, they might as well have grown up in the city. They did like to come out to the farm, but it almost always turned into a dare session between them.
That October, we’d already had a couple of cold nights, well below freezing, and Butch and Buster joined me to check the cows. The cows were mooing, usually a sign that they were out of water, and just as I figured, the watering trough had a slight crust of ice over it.
While I was looking for something I could use to break the ice, Buster stared intently at the corral. Eventually, he walked over to a flat, frozen cow pie.
“Hey, Butch,” Buster said, picking up the cow pie. “Look at this cool toy disk.”
“That’s not a toy disk,” I said. “It’s a frozen cow pie.”
“What’s a cow pie?” Buster asked.
“Cow poop,” I replied. “Also known as cow chips, ordure, or meadow muffins.”
Butch started to laugh. “Buster is playing with cow poop. He’s the cow poop man.”
“Well, it looks like a toy disk,” Buster said. “And I bet I can cow poop you upside the head with it.”
Buster immediately let it fly in Butch’s direction and barely missed hitting his brother.
“Oh, yeah?” Butch said. “I can throw better than you.”
Butch picked up a frozen cow pie and flung it in Buster’s direction. It fell far short, and Buster jumped up and down, laughing. “You can’t even throw it far enough. You’re Butch, loser of the Olympic cow chip toss.”
Soon frozen cow pies were flying back and forth almost as fast as insults. Meanwhile, I was hunting for something to break the ice, glad I wasn’t in the middle of their competition.
“Hey, guys, I need to go find an ax to break this ice,” I said. They paused their chipathon, so I pointed at a large brown mound about thirty feet across. “My dad told me to make sure that you don’t walk across the manure pit.”
“What’s a manure pit?” Butch asked.
“It’s where the wet manure flows out of the barn,” I replied. “Usually, it’s wet, but it’s frozen over.”
I left to get the ax, and when I returned, I was shocked to find both of them standing a few feet from each other over the center of the manure pit. Of course, when I say I was shocked, I mean I would have been if it had been anyone besides Butch and Buster.
“What are you doing out there?” I yelled.
“Buster dared me,” Butch said. “He said I didn’t have the guts to cross it.”
“And Butch said he was braver than me and could cross first,” Buster added.
“Well, get off of there,” I said.
“We can’t,” Buster replied. “Every time we move, we can hear it crack.”
“I’ll get a board,” I replied.
I found a long two-by-six and carefully pushed it across the crust toward them. It reached within a couple of feet of them. At almost the same instant, they both yelled, “Me first!” and stepped toward the board. Suddenly, the crust gave way, and they both disappeared. My heart pounded until they reappeared, sputtering and shivering.
“Grab the board,” I yelled. They did, and I pulled them out. “My dad’s going to kill me,” I said, rushing them to the house to get them cleaned up and some clean clothes.
Looking at their ruined clothes, Buster said, “I don’t think our dad’s going to be thrilled, either.”
That night my dad asked what had happened, and I told him the story. “Well,” he said, “you should know that when I tell you to keep them from doing something, the last thing you want to do is tell them not to do it—because then they will.” He laughed. “But I guess they learned their lesson because their dad said that when they got home, their old granny scrubbed them until they were all pooped out.”