Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Adventures at the Oldman River, or, The Curious Cow

I grew up in inner city Winnipeg, quite far-removed from the rural life. I mean, I knew that hamburgers come from cows and bacon comes from pigs and that apples grow on trees, but that was all knowledge I gained from tv and books. I always loved school visits to the farm and family fishing weekends outside the city. I still love finding cottages in quiet locales to spend the odd weekend, relaxing and exploring.

Last weekend, we went down to the Fort Macleod area in southern Alberta to stay in a cabin that I'd stayed in previously on a work trip. It was the hubby's first time, and also the first time for Rascal. It's an idyllic place, but there were a few too many bold ground squirrels for Rascal's liking.


On the first morning, we decided to head out for a little stroll up the gravel road to explore a bit. We managed to make it a good distance before we rounded a bend, and out stepped a brown cow from the ditch about a hundred paces away.

I said, "There's a cow up ahead. We'd better not get too close." We moved a little closer to see if it would move back, and the cow stood its ground, looking straight at us. It was a bit too far away for us to tell if it was a bull, but before we could do anything more, it started walking toward us.

At that moment, I remembered something some that some friends of mine who raised bison in southern Manitoba told me. She said, "The best way to stop a charging bison is to run toward it, waving your arms and shouting."

Fortunately, because I am from inner city Winnipeg, I am not that gullible.

I did, however, wave my arms a few times in the air and said half-heartedly, "Hey, cow. Look how big I am. Don't come any closer." The cow stopped and stared. We stared back. I remembered an instance in Ireland when I stared too long at a bull in a pasture, and it lowered its head and started stamping the ground. Probably not the best thing to do here, bull or not.

We decided just to turn and walk back up the road. When we looked back, the cow (and we knew it was a cow now because we could make out the udders) had started following us, staying a respectful distance behind. We kept going, calmly walking along while I thought about how weird it would be to have to call in sick to work because we irritated a brown cow. I thought about how, with me being from inner city Winnipeg and with the hubby being from urban Northern Ireland, the only one who had any experience with livestock was Rascal, who was born on a farm. I looked down at Rascal, who was busy sticking his head down gopher holes, and figured we were doomed.

As we approached the road down to the cabin, we saw this guy who lives in the field next door. He wasn't lying there like he is in this picture. He had just stood up as we approached, his eyes on us. I wasn't sure if it had seen our friend the brown cow behind us yet.


I wondered how protective a bull would be of its herd if an outsider cow approached. I wondered what it would be like to have a horn skewering my chest. I wondered how I'd explain that to my boss. At the same time, I looked back, and saw that the cow had also stopped to look back. It had spotted the rest of her herd on the hill behind, and it looked like she was trying to work out how to get back there. She turned around and started walking back, her eyes on the herd, our presence seemingly forgotten.

I looked back at the bull, and it was busy scratching itself on the fence. I guess we're ok, I thought to myself.

Back at the cabin, after we informed our guests of the wandering cow, I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and thought about it. I wondered why it wanted to follow us, and started worrying that I must look a lot like another cow, maybe more so from behind...

Hubby said, "I guess it wanted to see if the grass was greener on the other side."

Sure, I'll take that explanation. What do I know? I'm a city girl, after all.

Later on, as I fell asleep that night, I heard something moving around outside our window. My first thought? Oh man, the cow's come to find us! Hubby opened the blinds (after much prodding from me because I was too chicken), but all we saw was the moonlight landscape outside.

Man, I guess really need to spend more time in the country...

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