Can you guess what is going on these photographs?
THE COWS ARE OUT!
Earlier this fall, we headed out to bring in the cows for milking, as we do every day. The sun was not yet up and we stumbled into the pasture expecting to see large dark shapes hunkered down in slumber. We saw nothing. Returning with flashlights we searched the dark corners of the pasture, again finding nothing. Cows are quite large (hard to miss) and by now we had figured out that they were missing. A down fence in the west corner of their paddock quickly confirmed our fears. Thus began the search. We split up and roamed the fields, first by foot, and then with vehicles. The sun was still sleeping, and we had found no signs. As time pressed on, the sun rose, and we grew more frantic (for our entire business was lost and gone, nowhere to be found!). Malaika began checking in with all of the neighbors and pacing cornfields, Peter continued to roam the back fields, and Matthew and Asher (our herd dog) began to track. Matthew tracked hoof prints and cow pies all the way around the wetland, and into a corn field. In the vastness of the corn, he lost them. Little did he know, that with a few more steps onto the neighbors property, he may have spotted their deep red and white coats far off in the valley. For as Malaika was driving to a neighbors house, out the of the corner of her eye she spotted a splotch of red. Instantly she knew that she was on to something. Quickly parking the car, she sprinted across the field, and sure enough they were there, sprawled out beneath an oak tree chomping on acorns. Upon reaching them Malaika wasn't sure weather to laugh with delight, or cry with anger, or sigh with absolute relief. Without protesting the cows stood up and began tromping home. They knew they were in trouble and they knew exactly where to go. They ran the entire way home, as you can see by the bottom picture of our ox Loki. The morning was almost gone by now, and the cows udders were fuller than usual, looking as if milk might start squirting out as they were running. Back at the farm yard, the day began to calm done. We fixed the fences, finished milking, and finally took a deep breath. Over the next couple of days this rather stressful and frantic experience, slowly began to become a story, our first "when the cows got out" story.
In our family the stories of "when the cows got out" were our favorite bedtime tales. There were many versions of them, and most were true. The top three photos, taken on the farm decades ago, are proof.
These stories are, in a way, a right of farm passage. Embedding us in the tradition of carrying on skills, knowledge, and tales from one generation to the next. The bedtime story of "when the cows got out" is no longer just a story in our minds, but an experience, a lesson, and the next chapter.