Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews  entry Sept 2015  Allegro ma non troppo #3 - original Lion Magazine pub. date, 1992



Now It Can Be Told

The U.S. Army says that scientists during the Cold War sneaked up on cows and sprayed them with deodorant to test how easy it would be for enemies to spoil the nation's meat supply.

That item really appeared in the papers recently. If you ask me, this freedom of information stuff has gone too far. It started with the revelation about us bugging Khrushchev’s shoe. Sure, it turned out to be the shoe he decided to bang on the desk at the United Nations that time. (I was in the van that afternoon. Man, I thought someone was practicing the timpani part to The Ride of the Valkyries on my eardrums!) Or the weeks that we spent in the state of Washington trampling the huge initials ‘D.C.’ into the wheat fields, right after the final ‘n,’ to make sure incoming Russian ICBMs wouldn’t be able to find our real nation’s capital. Then, years before anyone had ever heard of genetic engineering, we were cross-breeding potatoes and Russian sables to artificially inflate the price of Commie vodka and ruin their economy. (Admittedly, the fur in the final product was a drawback.) Now this. Some disgruntled inside snitch, instead of venting his frustrations like a decent citizen —with an automatic rifle in a shopping mall—has blown the cover on one of our greatest missions: Operation No Mo’ Moo.

Sure it was tough, dirty work. And smelly. Especially smelly. But we did it because …well, we  were nuts. I remember training at DUD (Department for the Udderly Demented) like it was yesterday.

“All right! Sound off like you got a pair of horns!”
“Mooo.”
“I can’t hear you!”
“Moooooooo! Gung-ho! Here, Bossie!”
“That’s more like it!”

And I even remember those little spray cans: "Antiperspirant, aerosol, bovine, underlimb, olive drab, canister, individual, one,” neatly printed right next to the pin. Pull, point, spray. Psst-psst, dead meat, just like that. But getting in there was the hard part. If you thought rice-paddies were bad, try patty paddies.

“Keep down, Johnson. You’re not putting lipstick on a giraffe.” (That one was a CIA job, anyway, and what a stinker that turned out to be. Uh-oh, I may be talking just a little too much, here.) “You’re a slithering Russkie low-life spy bellying up to a cow, for Pete’s sake!”

Now they’re making a movie about us: The Stinky Dozen, a wacky but thoroughly unbalanced group of lovable ne’er-do-well pond scum culled from prisons for the criminally insane because each one had a specialty needed for The Mission. But things weren’t that romantic.

There was Semkie. (We called him “Siemienkhywszki”.) A dumb ox, yes, but that was an advantage. He didn’t need camouflage. The rest of us would spend hours smearing that …well, you know… that stuff… all over ourselves and taping our cow-bells, but he could sidle right into the herd, swish flies with the best of them—and then do it! Pow-Wow-Thank-You-Cow, as fast as that.

And there was Miller. (We called him “Miller”.) Had one of those little-boy cow-licks sticking up, the kind that drives heifers into fits of bovine complacency. Had a tongue like sand-paper and he had lots of dreams. “Some day,” he told me once, looking ruminatively up from where we were grazing, “we won’t just be spraying these animals with deodorant. We’re going to get them to floss.”  The poor guy bought it (or “stepped in the Big One,” as we used to say) trying out one of his own variations on the original plan. He tried a roll-on deodorant—always pushing the edge of the envelope—on a 1,600 pound Holstein bull. 

Then there was the “Doc”. (We called him “up”.) If anything went wrong—like if you got caught in a stampede—he was the one with the magic. I remember the time Angelo (he was Italian — some of us were in it for the glory, but Angelo just wanted the mozzarella) got hung up in the milking machine. Couldn’t stop giggling for days. “Doc, am I gonna make it?” he asked. “Give it to me straight”. “Sure, kid,” the Doc said. “Cover your mouth, turn your head to the right and moo.”

We took our casualties, too. Goldstein (we called him “Billy-Bob”) cracked up completely. We caught him trying to stuff one of the cows into an artillery piece. Said he wanted to fire the herd shot round the world.

But that’s what life at DUD was all about. We didn’t complain about it, either. We remained uncowed through it all. Yet —and this really curdles my cud—I now hear that some whiner—probably the same guy who broke this to the press in the fist place—is trying to get service-related disability compensation. He wound up with stomach ulcers. In all three stomachs.


to index for Allegro ma non troppo

Copyright © 2002 to 2019