that danger was near. She had never been in a place like this before--a
little shed with a five-foot gate behind her. All of her companions
had gone through the swinging doors in front of her, and not one
had returned. The men who had locked the gate at Frank Arena's slaughterhouse
in Hopkinton, Mass., were now off having lunch. Emily saw her chance,
and she took it.
she made her move, jaws dropped and workers stared in amazement.
Suddenly, Emily--all 1,600 pounds of her was airborne, sailing over
the gate and out of the building. "A cow just can't do that,"
Meg Randa told me.
of this rural area west of Boston were to discover, Emily, a three-year-old
Holstein, can do many things cows aren't supposed to do.
Arena and his workers took off after their runaway animal, but she
disappeared into the woods and eluded them all day. It was November,
1995, the beginning of an odyssey that would capture the imagination
of the entire community. Slaughterhouse workers scoured the woods,
leaving out bales of hay to entice Emily back into their grasp.
She would have none of it.
people reported seeing her running with a herd of deer, learning
from them how to forage in the woods. Soon the local paper was running
updates on Emily sightings. Meg Randa read the first one. "The
wheels started turning," she told me. "I said, "There's
got to be some way we can purchase her and let her live in peace."
in the former town hall in Sherborn, Mass., near Hopkinton. Meg
and her husband, Lewis, acquired the building 12 years ago. Here,
they run a school for children with special needs. Activist Quakers,
they also operate The Peace Abbey, where seminars and conferences
on peace have attracted participants like Mother Teresa and the
Dalai Lama. Surely, if they could bring Mother Teresa to a little
school in New England, they could do something for a desperate cow.
had the children and staff at their school and local residents as
coconspirators. Emily sightings suddenly dried up--it seemed that
nobody wanted to see her captured. Local farmers started leaving
out bales of hay for her to eat.
Frank Arena at the slaughterhouse and was touched by his willingness
to help. His granddaughter, Angela, had given Emily her name, and
even Frank (who died unexpectedly in January) seemed impressed by
her pluck. At first he offered to let the Randas have Emily for
the bargain price of $350; then, after consulting his granddaughter,
he changed the price to $1. "He liked the idea of Emily being
at the school," Lewis Randa explained.
hit, and Emily's food sources were covered by snow. The Randas and
others brought grain, hay, and water to places where they thought
Emily might be found; the food was eaten after they left, but Emily
wasn't ready to reveal herself.
one December day after they spread out some food, the Randas along
with fellow staff and students saw Emily. "We looked over our
shoulder, and she was right there looking at us," Meg recalled.
Emily had lost 500 pounds and needed veterinary treatment after
her 40-day ordeal, but the loving care of the students at the school
has brought her back to her full weight.
she has company. Last December, a neighbor approached the Randas
and asked if they could take in a calf that might otherwise be sent
to a slaughterhouse. The day I visited, little Gabriel stood patiently
while Emily groomed and licked him as fastidiously as any loving
mom. They have been joined by a pair of turkeys, a mother goat and
her two kids, and three rabbits--all of them rescued from inhumane
conditions and all of them now tended by students from the school.
biggest test is yet to come. Ellen Little, producer of 1995's film
Richard III, has started work on a film version of Emily's saga.
Emily will not have to leave her happy home for the lights of Hollywood,
though. She will be played by another Holstein--and that should
give another cow a chance to become a star.