Tony Vagneur: Everyone deserves a little bovine bliss
Hug a cow! “Come on, Tony, give her a hug.” Well now, that’s a thought, and it has some substance to it, especially given the bovine beauties we deal with on an almost daily basis.
It started this spring as I took on an irrigating job for my son-in-law, Ty. He had a herd of cows on some leased ground in the area of my horse pasture and it made sense for me to volunteer for the job, one that I considered a challenge.
Early every morning before sunup, I would look across the pasture, getting a gauge on where the cattle might be. If I saw a few contentedly grazing, I knew they all were still around. If I didn’t see any, it was time to do a little sleuthing and I’d go looking for ’em in the tall, greening cottonwoods along the river. Looking for black cows in that hazy, early-morning light proved to be somewhat of a test, and I soon learned there was one brown cow in the bunch that stood out more than the blacks. Plus, she was a bit like a “lead” cow, keeping an eye on the others, and especially an eye on me.
If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground to an odd creature carrying a shovel over his shoulder and sloshing through water in tall rubber boots. The idea that she might try to take me one day, to dump me in the ice-cold water and grind me into the mud, occasionally crossed my mind, but didn’t really register.
Over time, she became a beacon to me; spotting her off in the distance gave me reassurance that the herd was intact and I could get to work. I can’t really say what she might have thought of me, but can only guess that to her I was an unwelcome irritant, something she needed to keep an eye on. In that odd way of things between men and animals, we became cronies of a sort.
Time rolled on and the other day, it was time to trailer those creatures out of there and move them to higher ground, somewhere in the wilderness outside of Carbondale. Ty’s dad, Jeff, and I rounded up those fat, happy cattle with a little bit of trouble. They apparently could see that my horse, still a little green this early in the summer (and morning), was acting up, not quite complacent to gallop after cattle without ducking his head, and shrewdly took off in absolutely the wrong directions. Finally, after a couple of tries and with the additional help of truck driver Fred, we got them corralled.
So, if you’re wondering where in the world I could be going with this story, I’m almost there. We separated the cows from the calves so they could safely transport separately — the little calves need their own space in close quarters such as trailers and trucks.
On foot, as I opened the steel gate and looked out over a sea of black cattle in the corral, the first momma to face me was my stalwart partner, the big brown beast who’d been nurturing me through my irrigation rounds. Oh my, there we were suddenly, in close quarters, face-to-face, just feet away from each other, the look in her eyes a bit disconcerting. She outweighed me by an immeasurable amount, the ground wasn’t very smooth, and had she really pressed her advantage, might have had a chance to even whatever score she was keeping.
And as I’m rambling on, explaining this to the big brown cow, looking me straight in the eye without blink or flinch, that maybe after eyeballing me all spring, thinking about a chance to take me down, maybe her opportunity had finally arrived.
Jeff, the kind of guy who looks at life with a sense of humor and a smile or chuckle, heard me schmoozing with the cow and says with a laugh, “Tony, just give her a hug.” And before long, we’re talking about making it “Hug a Cow Week.”
So, if you get a chance, give a cow a hug. It’ll lighten your day.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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Some days, I miss being back in the saddle. I miss making memories.