Where the Land Meets the Sky

Etienne White

A cow was standing right in the middle of the road. I was in my car driving toward it. The cow wasn’t the least bit perturbed by its location nor the fact that there was a huge hulk of metal approaching it. This ambivalent bovine bulk put me in jeopardy of not reaching my destination on time.
I stopped the car a safe distance away from the cow that was still, ahem … still. Then I very carefully began to move at a creep so as to advance but without alarming the friendly looking cow. Whereupon the cow finally began to move, ambling along the edge of the road. For what was most likely only seconds, but felt like minutes, we advanced along the road in parallel. This continued until the clever cow spied a cornfield. With a quick, gleeful kick of her back legs and an extra flourishy flounce of her tail she trotted at a new, excited pace straight into the field and made herself at home. There was an abundance of food to gorge upon and I could see her head tearing this way and that at the corn stalks.
While relieved to no longer be sharing the road with her, it was still a dangerous predicament to have a cow on the loose. I stopped in at the first farm I saw, right at the end of the cornfield. After tapping on the farm door, being met by a friendly but aging farmer, then explaining the situation, I was greeted with a chuckle, a carefree shrug of the shoulders and the words, “Yeeeeaaah, those are my neighbor’s cows — they get out.” With this statement of fact he stood smiling nodding his head at me. “Yup,” he concluded — the universal conclusion for all awkward country folk who choose to live away from people, but still find themselves in conversations with strangers at unannounced and unexpected times. “Yup” is a signal that they don’t mean to be rude, but this conversation is now ended.
I wasn’t happy with this ending, so I suggested perhaps he’d like to call his neighbor to convey the message about the rebel cow. “No,” he repeated matter of factly. “They. Get. Out.” “Ok, well she’s actually not on the road anymore, she’s just in the cornfield there,” I stated.
At which point the farmer’s back straightened and his shoulders dropped an inch at least. “It’s in MY cornfield?” he said with urgency and surprise, straining his neck to see beyond me. “Well, I don’t know if that’s YOUR cornfield, but she’s right there,” I said pointing. The farmer was already putting his boots on and moving through the doorway past me, all in one superhero-swift move.
Sometimes other people’s problems need to set themselves down in our fields, or gardens, before we’ll truly take notice of them. There’s a lesson in there, methinks … .

Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.

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