Rick Herrmann took up a hobby learning saxophone, and while he enjoyed the new pursuit, his dog did not. His yellow lab Piper would bark and cover her ears when Herrmann belted out a tune.
So last week when Herrmann and his wife went on a run near their home in Lafayette, Ore., and came across a field of cows, he wondered what the cows would think of his playing. If they didn’t like it, he figured, at least they couldn’t cover their ears.
“My wife said, 'Why not try it?’ ” he said. “So we returned that evening with a little sunlight left.”
Hermann stood at the edge of the fence and began an impromptu concert with “Isn’t She Lovely?” by Stevie Wonder, followed by George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” and “Tequila” by The Champs.
Within seconds, about 30 brown dairy cows had walked over to the fence near Herrmann, staring at him with big, expectant eyes and swaying their tails.
“They’re coming to you,” his wife, Kym, laughs in the video.
The cows loved him.
“As soon as they heard me playing, their heads came up from grazing and they froze,” Rick Herrmann, 53, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Then they all started hurrying over.”
Herrmann’s sweet gig — captured on video by his wife — has now gone viral, with more than 11 million views since June 26, when the couple’s daughter, Erin, posted the performance on Twitter.
“My parents are such goofs, they drove out to the backroads so my dad could play the cows the songs he’s been learning on the saxophone,” she wrote.
It might be unsurprising that a man who would play music for a herd of cows would also tell a corny joke: “It was a moo-ving experience,” he said. He also said one viewer suggested he perform music to “go in one ear and out the udder.”
Taking stock of the situation the next day, Erin Herrmann and her dad were shocked to discover that their cow video was rapidly climbing into the stratosphere on social media.
“There are lots of animal videos out there, so I didn’t think this would be as big as it was,” said Erin Herrmann, 22, who manages a wine tasting room in the Willamette Valley.
“A lot of it has to do with my dad and how happy he looks,” she added. “He’s not the greatest at the saxophone. But the cows were very appreciative.”
Rick Herrmann was overwhelmed to suddenly hear from delighted strangers who hoped he would return to the pasture and perform an encore.
“At first, it was a bit overwhelming,” he said. “I’m not exactly a social media person. But then when I saw that so many people were made happy by the video, I was glad about it. There’s a lot of bad news out there, and we could all use something silly to make us smile.”
Herrmann, who works as a manager at a tech firm, took up the saxophone seven months ago to check off something that had been on his bucket list for years.
He had grown up around cows in southern Wisconsin and had even helped milk a few at his uncle’s dairy farm. “They’re big and gentle animals,” he said. “But smart? I’m not so sure.”
At the very least, he said, they are curious.
“It’s fun that they all came over to listen,” he said. “Maybe they thought my saxophone was similar to a cow noise or they found it comforting. Whatever the reason, it was a peaceful moment.”
Studies have shown that dairy cows produce more milk when exposed to relaxing, slow music, likely because they’re happy, so Herrmann imagines that at some point, he’ll return to the pasture with his sax.
He will not, he said, leave his dad jokes behind.
“I guess you could say that I’ll be milking this for all it’s worth,” he said.
No doubt. Until the cows come home.