Fewer days ahead than there are behind. When do we admit that?
[Mom & Dad]
Doctor Dolittle strikes again:
Watching and being watched:
Mom remains the single most important source of my proclivity to understand nature. She embodies the foundation of my ability to reach out and touch, on communal terms, the life of beasts great and small. From her I gleaned an appreciation of life in all its many forms; from her I received a courageous approach to that which is different; from her I learned not to fear but to respect a world full of living things.
As Sharon, my aunt, pointed out last weekend after arriving from New York, Mom is also the family’s Doctor Dolittle. No matter the species, Sharon stood amazed that Mom felt no fear of but plenty of compassion for every beast.
So here I present a bit of Doctor Dolittle in action.
One herd of cows had stood at the pasture’s gate for a few hours, perking up each time Mom stepped outside. Some would even call to her. A visit with her, they knew, was always a pleasant experience.
Around these parts, a cow moaning and groaning is referred to as “bellering” or, in the more precise vernacular, “beller’n.” As with all animals who can make sounds, one need only listen and learn the language to understand what they’re saying. I learned this trip the specific kind of beller’n that translated to “Where’s Mom? Can we see her? Mom, are you bringing a treat? Why haven’t you come to see us yet?”
Eventually deciding to go visit them, even if for no other reason than to stop their beller’n, she grabbed a small bucket full of treats and we followed her. The treats, by the way, are a compressed grain and molasses goody specially made for cows. And how they love that stuff!
You might be thinking she has nothing to worry about as she’s behind a fence. Nope. She’s in the enclosure standing in the “run,” that part of the fence used to herd the cows on or off a trailer. While most of the cows are standing on one side of the run, any of them could easily walk up to her. Like this:
That happens to be the massive bull, the bovine equivalent of a leviathan. He could easily trample a human without noticing, yet he loves Mom dearly and gifts her with his most gentlemanly behavior. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes he gets a little carried away with his affectionate munching.
Oh, and she’s getting some tongue action from one of the young’uns who really thinks they deserve more attention. . .and treats.
Don’t worry. No humans or bovines were harmed in the making of this post. Despite looking as though he intends to eat her starting with her arm, he’s actually suckling the treat from her hand.
One bite and a cow that size could sever a limb. Never did any of us fear such a thing would happen. Despite not being terribly fond of others, that bull absolutely loves Mom and treats her with the utmost care.
From the other side of the run came another cow who felt the service was not as prompt as it should be, so she offered a bit of an incentive: cow slime. There’s a lot of tongue in one of those heads and they don’t think twice about slobbering all over the place with gleeful anticipation.
When the food had all disappeared and Mom finally stepped out of the pasture, I remained standing next to the fence as I snapped some additional photos. I obviously didn’t pose a threat.
That cow asked and asked for something I didn’t have: more treats. When she discovered one hand empty, she turned to the other. Where I was holding the camera.
Before I knew it, she slimed the whole camera and my hand looking for something to munch on. It took me several minutes of wiping and cleaning before I could take another photo.
By then, however, the bull had come to see if I had anything to offer.
Unfortunately, he too found I had nothing. The herd began to mill about wondering if we had something in reserve, not wanting to walk away and miss something yet finding all the empty hands of little use save the occasional pet or pat.
We finally moved across the main yard to another pasture where the other herd rested. Doctor Dolittle had one final show for my aunt.
You see, one of the cows is so smitten with Mom that she won’t let her come and go without stopping for a good scratching and petting session. This cow is, in point of fact, Mom’s pet, Mom’s baby bovine.
If my mother walks into the pasture, this large puppy comes trotting alongside, gentle nudges and expectant glances included. She simply won’t accept that Mom is there for any reason other than to pet her.
And so she does.
While the quality of those images suffered because I was shooting into the sun, I think you get the point.
There is a look of absolute trust and contentment on that cow’s face. She’s so enjoying the back rub that she’d miss a nuclear war if it happened right next to her.
Keep in mind this doesn’t cover the chickens who follow her around and talk to her, and who even don’t mind being held by her, or the rabbits who curl up and coo softly in her arms as they wallow in a trusted embrace, or the various other animals who find my mother a kindred, loving spirit who cares for them as she would a child.
There’s no need to question where I got my ability to deal with animals on such a spiritual level. . .
[a rather large katydid loitering about on the front bumper of one of the farm trucks as photographed during my last visit to East Texas; because I didn’t get a picture showing enough detail, I’m uncertain as to the precise species, but I suspect it’s either a broad-tipped conehead (Neoconocephalus triops) or a round-tipped conehead (Neoconocephalus retusus); you can see a close-up of its beautiful eye here and a cropped but not resized image of the whole thing here]
As I’ve explained before about the cows at the family farm, there are several pastures, some open and some full of trees and brush, and the cows are moved from enclosure to enclosure as the grass grows.
I snapped these photos while I visited there earlier this month.
Facing away from the front of the house, one of the pastures borders a creek and offers lush vegetation in many forms, from thicket to arboreal giants. Although they’re difficult to see in the smaller version seen below, there are a handful of cows downhill from the gate on the left side of the photo. You can see them behind the gate and camouflaged by verdant grass if you look at the larger version.
And yes, if you must know, I totally had the camera on the wrong settings for that particular shot. That’s why the sky looks bleached and the contrast of the trees looks like too much gamma correction has been applied.
Get over it.
The next two photos are on the opposite side of the house facing away from its back porch. There is another pasture there full of East Texas’ second growth and scrub.
In this first image, you can see Mom in the lower-left corner as she offers a bit of affection to one of the calves. That baby’s mother, having had her fill of attention and people in general, can be seen walking away at center.
As soon as the juvenile bovine realized its mother was leaving and it had to choose between some petting and maternal protection—and food—it promptly dashed to the elder cow’s side and followed her to the other end of the pasture.
Even Mom’s stunningly powerful charms weren’t enough to overcome the family link between mother and child. But then again, Mom certainly understands that premise and the strength of such bonds.