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Outdoors Outpost
Watch for Falling Cows - and Turtles
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 • Posted August 8, 2013

At the very end of my column a couple of weeks ago I mentioned Joao Maria de Souza, a 45-year-old man from Caratinga, Brazil, who was killed by a falling cow while in his bed with his wife, Leni. Since then several people have asked me about that incident, particularly how the cow ended up falling on Joao. I had no idea there would be so much interest, but now I’m thinking about offering to build cow screens over beds, to keep this from happening to people who are worried about it. These screens will not be cheap, but peace of mind is expensive.

Actually, the cow that killed Joao didn’t fall from the sky, although that has happened. Dave Barry once wrote about some cows that were being hauled on a plane by some Japanese folks, and when the altitude changes got the cows all worked up it looked like they were about to cause the plane to crash, banging around and kicking and mooing uncontrollably. So the crew opened the cargo door and ran the cows out of the plane at about 10,000 feet over the Sea of Japan.

One of those cows, unfortunately, landed on a fishing boat, and went right through the hull. The boat sank, but as I recall the fishermen were all rescued. And the plane didn’t crash. So that turned out fine. Well, not for the cows, but you can’t please everyone.

The cow that killed Joao, however, was not airbourne. A lot of the houses in Caratinga are evidently built up against hills, and the cow walked onto Joao’s corrugated tin roof, which was obviously not cow-proof, and fell through. And congress does nothing.

Brazil’s Hoje em Dia newspaper quoted Joao’s brother-in-law, Carlos Correa, as saying, “Being crushed by a cow in your bed is the last way you expect to leave this earth.” I disagree. My opinion is that being choked to death by a clown while riding a camel in Time’s Square on Sept. 19 (International Talk Like A Pirate Day) is the last way most people expect to die. But they’re both on the list.

That story, however, got me to wondering if a lot of people die by having animals fall on them. So I did some research, and made a startling discovery – research is boring. Plus, if you’re looking for information on the internets, you are constantly being veered off in random directions into various subjects you really don’t care about, but you can’t stop. It’s like trying not to rubberneck at a train wreck.

I did learn that there must be a lot of people, besides me, who are worried about being eaten by a shark. Not that sharks actually kill all that many people, but they do kill some, and a lot of folks seem to be concerned that sharks have an undeservedly poor reputation as being homicidal. The sharks don’t seem to bother about it one way or the other.

But a search about animals killing people brings up quite a bit of information about shark attacks, such as sites that are titled ‘5 Things More Likely To Kill You than a Shark Attack,’ and ’11 animals more likely to kill you than sharks,’ and ‘20 Things That Kill More People Than Sharks Every Year,’ and ‘Sharks aren’t so bad, really,’ and ‘A shark saved my son from drowning,’ and ‘Sharks paid off my mortgage,’ and ‘I was raised by sharks.’ You get the picture.

My impression is that, if sharks were all that warm and cuddly, they probably wouldn’t need all these people taking up for them in the first place. Everyone would want two or three in their swimming pools, and the old television series would’ve featured a shark as ‘Flipper,’ instead of a porpoise. So I still don’t trust sharks, just because they’ve got a PR team spreading this stuff about how nice they are.

I found very little about people killed by animals falling on them from above, although quite a few people have been killed by animals in other ways. Christopher Reeve, of course, died from injuries that stemmed from a fall from a horse, and ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin succumbed to a stingray barb to the heart. This is why I avoid horses and stingrays, not necessarily in that order.

Marty Feldman, who played Igor in ‘Young Frankenstein,’ was laid low by food poisoning caused by shellfish, although some claim he was actually scared to death by cartoonist Sergio Aragones, including cartoonist Sergio Aragones. Really.

Timothy Treadwell, of course, was killed and eaten by grizzly bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska, but then he asked for that. He spent a lot of time with the bears, probably thinking they liked him. This is why we tell our children to be careful who they hang around with.

Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, committed suicide by asp, but my favorite famous dead ancient dude is Aeschylus, the Greek playwright who was killed in 455 B.C. when an eagle saw his bald head and, thinking it was a rock, dropped a turtle on it. I’m kind of surprised Stephen Spielberg hasn’t made a movie about that, but there you go.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that, except that ‘The Falling Turtles’ would make a good name for a rock band . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who wears a crash helmet anytime he’s around eagles. Or sleeping. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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