October 19, 2012

Consider the Cow

I've lived in Kansas my entire life, more or less, which means a lot of things, but I'm going to take this somewhere you're not expecting. This is not about The Wizard of Oz (please), hills (we have them), or general ass-backwards education policy (no arguing that, sadly).

No, this is about cows. Stay with me.

Living in Kansas, cows have been somewhat omnipresent in my life. If you drive anywhere outside of any town, you see them. You may in fact smell them from further away, particularly if you venture near  some of the less "free range" operations. This state's history, even, is largely defined and created by the cattle trade, the iconic longhorns being driven up from Texas, through the towns of the wild west.

Despite this closeness - or perhaps because of it - I've never really thought a great deal about cows. They seem, after a while, like scenery. You see them, but they lack the graceful power and spectacular musculature of horses, the personality and cuddliness (a technical term) of dogs and cats, and so they're more or less dismissed.

This weekend, however, I thought about cows, when I was charged by one. Heartland - the race I was running - largely takes place on private pasture, and as such, cows sometimes mill about. But about 16 miles in to my race, one particular heifer had had enough milling, and felt the need to get some running in herself.

As I shuffled along, a heard a rustle, and then saw a great black mass hurtling towards me. I turned, and my headlamp illuminated (it was a night race) the silhouette of a large, black cow, a rippling mass careening right at me. "Oh fuck," I yelled, and darted off the side of the road, the absurdity of this whole thing not yet dawning on me. When it did, I laughed to myself, imagining DNF'ing a race due to injury sustained via cow trampling. This was not Pamplona, after all.

At work and decidedly not trampled the next day, I set about ordering milk, which we all know comes from cows, but I'm not so sure that we know it. That is, milk comes from a plastic jug, the grocery, and the milk guy who brings it there. It is a white foodish liquid that we use to make drinks, pour pretty designs, and generally center our barista lives around. It is a commodity and an artistic tool, but not something that actually comes from a living thing - which of course, it is.

Now, I don't do calls to action, or editorial pieces. My style - insofar as I have one - is to throw ideas out there in a somewhat coherent (hopefully) stream of consciousness. So I'm not going to tell you that cows are people too (there are better and more articulate sources for that already), or that you should think or feel a certain way about them.

What I am suggesting is this: In an age where we're justifiably concerned about farm-to-cup coffee sourcing, and everything that goes along with that, perhaps we could spare a moment's thought for those other farms, and those other producers, without which we wouldn't be able to do our jobs. So while I'm not trying to tell you what to think of cows, I would like to say that maybe you try thinking about them at all.

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