What I Did This Summer

by Samuel Jay Keyser, Associate Provost, MIT

What do fresh men and women do during the summer to prepare themselves for their first year at MIT? Everybody knows the answer to that. Anything from catching up on all the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes they missed in high school to making faces at iguanas in the Galapagos. But what do senior administrators like Associate Provosts do? That is a different question. When the editors of VooDoo were able to work up sufficient courage to ask that question, naturally they came to me. They knew that, if the price were right, I would write for anyone. They also knew my weakness for frozen Milky Way bars. So here it is: what I did during my summer vacation.

This summer I rented a house with a fence around it. The reason for the fence was that the house was located smack in the middle of a pasture and on that pasture was a herd of nineteen Holsteins (for those of you from big cities, those are the black and white cows that look like the plastic cream pitchers you buy in airport gift shops) and one brown and white cow of indeterminate origin that looked as if she had wandered into the wrong line at one of those twelve movie movie houses where each cinema can comfortably seat anywhere between fifteen people and twelve cows. The cows outside my fence were given to strolling in a huge circle around the pasture at a sedate pace which brought them to the fence once every twenty four hours. They were as dependable as the sunrise.

Now if you already are at MIT and do not know that I play trombone, then you have probably spent most of your MIT life in the basement of Building 26 along with that handful of other students who still think computer programs are written on IBM punch cards. Be that as it may, you know it now and can come on up to the first floor.

Somewhere around the middle of the first week of my stay in the aforementioned rental property, it occurred to me that the cows on their daily circuit might like to hear me play the trombone. Why not? Wouldn't you? And so it was that one morning when the cows were passing by, I got out my horn and played several tunes just for them, tunes like Blue Moo, Moo over Miami, The Moo and I, In a Sentimental Moo, You and the Night and the Moosic -- all the old cow standards.

The effect on the cows was electrifying. There were about fifteen cows at the fence and five on higher ground a few hundreds yards away. As soon as I started playing, the five cows on higher ground came racing down the dirt road to the fence separating me from them. Those that were nearby stopped dead in their tracks and turned their ears toward me like large silky antennae. Several came close to the fence and made eye contact for several bars. I am not at all ashamed to admit that I blinked first. Never in my life have I had a more attentive audience. In a word, these cows were mooved. I couldn't help notice a certain nervous activity in the vicinity of their tails which gave them the appearance of so many clocks on a nursery wall and which, in all modesty, I took to be a standing ovation.

I have just described one of the most wonderful moosical events of my life. Never have I felt such rapport with an audience. I learned a few days later that the farmer who owns the herd calls them to milking with a horn. I take that bit of intelligence to be completely irrelevant.

Have a good year and think of me when you pour milk on your moosli in the morning.