Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dear gang of cattle,

Today we stopped at the pullout on the east side of Highway 20 heading north. We had a hankering to walk down to the railroad bridge, to see what the bird action was in the fall, where the weather is colder and northerlier and the snow might already be flying, at least intermittently. We did not expect to see you, gang of cattle, strewn about the landscape like it was your winter range or something. In the distance, we saw a pronghorn leap among you.

But you, gang of cattle, grazed to the east, the north, the south. On this side of the river and on that. Black, brown, white faced. Hundreds of you, and nary a one of you looked too friendly.

At first, we advanced toward the bridge at a good clip. I asked my husband the historian--I don't think you've formally met him--"Do we need to worry about the cattle?"

"No," he said, with confidence and a spring in his step.

"But what about the bulls? Can't they get kind of grouchy?"

"I've never met a grouchy bull," he said improbably.

Down the road we went. Ahead, several black cows turned toward us with a dead-eyed stare. We slowed down.

The historian: ...I don't know.

Me: What do you think?

By now, we had stopped.

The historian: Maybe we ought to go back.

Another cow stepped into the road and turned toward us.

Me: Let's just go slow.

So we walked a step or two forward, and paused. The cows did not flinch. Another step. One of them turned, crossed the road, and walked to the north. We took another step, and another cow stepped away from the rumble. Another step, gang of cattle, and your squad had basically given up their show of force. It maybe have been your block, but you let us pass.

We walked without further incident to the bridge, although we did pass a bull who gave us what I think was a mean stare, just to show us that we were not in our own territory.

At the bridge, there were almost no birds, no bugs to speak of, and the water was low. Still beautiful, though. The public lands people had put a gate across the entrance to the bridge so that you, gang of cattle, wouldn't try to cross and fall in, I guess. We stepped over and under and dreamed for a little while, looking into the water.

As we walked back, we saw the gang council gathered at the salt lick. Possibly you were discussing our intrusion in your 'hood. Sorry about that, a little. Not much. Or not at all, really. We'll be back next summer, and you'll be elsewhere, in some other mountain pasture, we guess. Don't think we didn't hear that lowing and mooing as we passed. We won't take it personally. At least not this time.




  1. Maybe you should have told them the rude interrupting cow joke. You know as an icebreaker!

  2. I had a very similar experience in Oregon once. The cows are like gangs--just there to intimidate. unless you cross the line.

  3. I've never met a grouchy bull either. But I was also never allowed in the pen where we kept him.



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