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Derek Klingenberg plays trombone until the cows come home

Kansas farmer Derek Klingenberg plays a mean trombone. Mind you, farming does not leave one with very much spare time; so the fact that he should use so much of that precious commodity for music-making is practically news in itself. However, he seems to have found a way to put his avocation to vocational use.

Derek Klingenberg on the banner for his YouTube home page
from his YouTube home page

Through an article on the Web site maintained by my local (San Francisco) ABC station, I found a YouTube video of Klingenberg using his trombone to summon his cows home at the end of the day. This was clearly a self-made video; but Klingenberg strategically fixed his camera behind the chair from which he was playing to take in a broad view of the horizon. He then starts to play the Lorde song “Royals.”

The viewer who concentrates on the horizon will see the first sign of movement around the beginning of the second chorus. From then on one sees a flow of cattle growing as it approaches Klingenberg (with a few strays in the background who have not yet quite caught on to the herding instinct). This process apparently took longer than the duration of the video (about four and a quarter minutes). As a result, Klingenberg did a bit of editing at the end; so he could conclude with his “playing to a full house” (or, more accurately, field).

The text accompanying the ABC article suggested that the presence of the cows may have had more to do with the truckload of hay that was behind the camera. I do not know enough about farming to know how far the scent of fresh hay can waft. On the other hand I would not write off the possibility that the cows have a biological clock that lets them know when it is time for dinner. (I know my cat has one. Besides, you need only one cow with such an internal clock. The rest will follow.) Yet another explanation is that this video was the end result of a long period of operant conditioning, creating an association between trombone sounds and food. (Again, conditioning a single cow should be sufficient to get the process started.)

Whatever the case, as I write this, Klingenberg’s video has received 2,791,976 views. However, there is more to the story, since this is not his first upload to YouTube. He seems to have been uploading videos for at least nine months, most of which are song parodies. He now has 35,757 subscribers for his efforts. I just hope this is not depriving him of time that could be applied to working on his trombone chops (or, for that matter, minding the farm).

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