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Location: Midwest, United States

Monday, November 08, 2010

Languid Cows

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. Perfection incarnate. Well, OK, OK, not exactly perfect. I had to contend with strong headwinds for half my ride. Even so, it was as near perfect as any soul could have desired.

I have a favorite twenty-mile loop for my cycling sojourns. It takes me past a number of farms where cattle and horses abound. I rather enjoy them. Some, in turn, find me a curious sight. We nod to each other in appreciation.

There’s this herd of Charolais I’ve come to admire. I see them each time I pass their way. Almost always, I find them standing in the field, munching cud contentedly. Not today. This gloriously sunny and warm fall afternoon found them resting (basking, actually). A polite breed the Charolais is. Almost all sat primly with their legs tucked discreetly beneath. Except one. The one I found most endearing.
S(he) languished on her side, belly to the sun. Legs splayed indiscriminately. Ah, a hedonist!

I was transported to a memory of a study done by an aspiring graduate student who mapped the course of cow paths using orbiting satellites to trace the trails. And what exactly did this student find? Well, unlike what may have been predicted by some “animals are dumb, unfeeling brutes” theorists, cows did not wander to the barn at dusk in a straight path. Neither did they travel paths of least resistance. No. What the student/geographer/techno-wizard found was that cows traveled the “scenic route” to home. That’s right, cows took their time wandering from field to refuge, taking in all the sights along the way.

I like that about cows.

And I got a bone to pick with any and all who claim that animals don’t have an emotional life. Proofs abound that they do, indeed. There was Temple Grandin, the autistic savant who viscerally came to understand cow terror. There are the studies of rampaging elephants that were killing rhinos. Turns out each and every one was orphaned at an early age by poachers who slaughtered their mothers. There was my feral cat, Edie, so wild that no human could touch her EVER, except me (but only when she pleased). She would formulate elaborately devious plots to steal food. Her machinations impressed me no end.

We’ve come a long, long way in understanding animal behavior. Even so, our insights constitute nothing more than a slim gap in our ignorance.

I spent the remainder of my ride musing about poet penguins, shaman snakes, skeptical sea lions, philosophical spiders, political bullfrogs and locusts falling hopelessly in love.

Who is to say I am wrong in thinking this?

* * *


Blogger Kass said...

What a bucalic, pastoral post!

Love Temple Grandid. I've watched the HBO movie 3 times.

Tue Nov 09, 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger June Calender said...

Don't know which I admire more, your photo, your post or the cows. "glimpse of our ignorance" is perfect -- a line from a profound poem, or post in this case. Farm raised myself, I have never doubted the complexity even of chickens.

Tue Nov 09, 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Seconds before reading this I was writing to a friend..."I love the word languid. I find it beautiful."

I watched the movie "Temple Grandin" the other day...was mesmerized by it, by her, by the cattle and what she learned of them and from then. How applying those things helped her function. Amazing.

Wed Nov 10, 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live with two cats, that's all the proof I need.

Thu Nov 11, 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you, Kass.

I, too, have viewed Temple Grandin multiple times. Claire Danes' performance was a tour de force.

Awwww. Made me blush, June.

But ain't that the thing? People who live/work/derive wealth from animals come in two basic flavors: those who recognize animal emotions and those who choose to deny them (for the sake of their own conscience, I suspect). It ain't easy killing a creature if one understands that the creature suffers.

Ah, Annie, I'm not surprised we both love the romance languages. Languid comes from a Latin root. I do loves hearing Italian, French and Spanish. Russian? Not so much.

As a three-cat person meself (once), I'm with you all the way, Lilith.

Sat Nov 13, 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Smiler said...

As you must know by now, I quite love animals too. Every time I've been on a ride to a place with cows out on a field, I've always shouted out "Cows!" and then stared out wistfully with the delight and surprise of a little child, to the inevitable amusement of whoever happened to be in the car with me. I'm not surprised one bit to find out they go the extra mile to enjoy the scenery.

Interesting that you mention Temple Grandin, I've been wanting to read her book for some time and on a few occasions missed what looks like an excellent HBO movie about her... which I see here you've seen. Hope to catch it eventually. If only all human beings were given even an ounce more of empathy for animals, we'd be living in a completely different world.

Sun Nov 14, 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Do try to watch the HBO film, Smiler. It's an amazing (true) story. Cows. Yeah. Me likes.

Tue Nov 16, 09:01:00 PM  

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