Can’t help it. I’m afraid of them.
Not one on it’s own perhaps.
But in the U.S. there is hardly ever just one cow out on its own.
There’s usually a crowd.
Okay, I’m even fine with a crowd, if it’s behind a fence. But I’m not so happy if it’s me with a crowd not behind a fence (that is, on the same side.)
Yes, I know all about the archetype of the gentle cow. The patient, dull, cud-chewing cow. The sweet-breathed cow. (Though this last has always been a bit hard to swallow.)
I’m even familiar with “la vache qui rit,” the laughing cow, red and smiley, staring knowingly from a wedge of processed cheese.
But when I’m in a field with a bunch of them what comes immediately to mind is the less classic archetype of the “BIG cow.”
And, “is any of them a bull?”
And, “why are they staring at me?” (Their eyes like another set of their huge black nostrils only disconcertingly, gleemingly, intent.)
I can’t help but feel that if several ran at me at once, at least some of them would be a whole lot faster than they look.
I imagine the run of cows to take the form of an avalanche. One starts a determined scamper, sort of like the first pebble or snow ball, and then suddenly, they’ve all taken off.
I squint now. Is that huge one in front a bull or not?
(I should point out that the cows in the fields near me are beef cattle rather than dairy. This somehow makes them feel inherently more aggressive, i.e. even the nursing mothers aren’t swayed by udders.)
I run into the cows this morning (up in upstate New York) as I cross over from a deeply forested stream bed to the next field where I hope to ascend to some open air.
The stream bed is beautiful, but, with all this rain, it is more peaty, musky, rotten-loggy and slippery than ever. Teeny fluorescent orange and yellow mushrooms sprout from the dark forest floor like wild flowers; interspersed are paler, bigger, knobbier ones.
I felt extremely enterprising before leaving for the walk. As a result, I carry a small thermos of tea in one rain coat pocket, a small cup in the other.
If one of my daughters were with me, we would probably be “herping” (engaging in herpetology), which means turning over damp rocks to search for salamanders. (There are tons, it turns out.)
On my own, I am merely searching for a nice open, not too damp, spot, for a nice spot of tea. A cuppa with a view. I even have my notebook in tow. (Stuffed into the waistband of my trousers.)
But, as I climb up to the field, there they are. Too many too count, especially since I instantly shrink back from their sight. Huge. Brown. Knobby kneed. All seemingly staring at me. Especially that imposing one in the front, whose underside is not completely clear to me.
Needless to say, I back down the dark bank to the stream bed.
And am now sitting on a regular bed, in a comfortable, if slightly musty house (it really has rained all summer), thermos open to my side.
The only hint of cow, the milk in my still-steaming tea.
If you prefer elephants to cows, check out 1 Mississippi (Karin Gustafson), link above or on amazon.