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Counting Cows

After moving down the road from my in-laws, I wondered at my father-in-law’s compulsion to drive through his cattle every day, sometimes twice. My husband did the same. Checking on his steers that he was feeding out on leased grass until time to take them to the sale barn.

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The view from our front porch was enjoyable. Calm, peaceful with an endless sky but, after all, they were just a bunch of dumb cows. Nothing special to see here. I never understood this obsession about checking cows.

My father-in-law sometimes included my sons in his craziness, by taking them along. They eagerly waited for him at the end of the driveway, glee sparkling in their eyes as they climbed on the seat beside him.

One morning I discovered ‘checking the cows’ in a whole new light. My mother-in-law had become ill, and my father-in-law stayed at the hospital. The checking of the cattle fell to me and my oldest son.

Bouncing across the pasture in the four-wheeler, the meadowlarks provided stereo surround sound as their melody came from every direction. On this Spring morning the air was clear and cool, with just enough chill in the air to tingle the tip of your nose.



Our instructions were simple; count the momma cows and calves, paying particular attention to make sure no one was missing. The problem: we couldn’t find a single cow.

We drove back and forth, criss-crossing the place. Just about the time we were ready to admit defeat and figure out Plan B, we topped a small rise.

There they were, grazing in a low wash. The grass, a brilliant, bright green, had been washed clean from a late evening shower the night before. Patches of brilliant blue pools doted the lows. Calves hopped and chased each other. The baby’s hides provided a variety of colors in shades of rust, brown, caramel and my favorite, a dark, rish mocha brown, and then some black.

Is this real? A place out of a fairy tale – perfect, green, lovely, surreal. The worries of the hectic world vanished in an instant.

My father was absolutely right when he told my new husband to ‘never move Natalie to the country, she’ll never like it’. I really don’t like it very much. I absolutely love living at the end of a dirt road ten miles from town. I love the critters that find a way into my yard to terrorize the dogs, which as of this summer stands at  skunks, cotton tails, jackrabbits, a little opossum, one frail, flea-bitten kitten, and thank goodness, no snakes. Where the cat came from we can’t say, but Skooter is a part of the family now.

Rural life has meddled into my bones; the sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, the pasture land we care for, and yes, even the cows that graze upon it.