Last season there were cows in the meadow bordering my campground–not just one or two cows, but a lot of cows. How many cows does it take to make a herd? I don’t know, but I think there was probably an entire herd in the meadow.
For most of this season, only a couple of cows spent time in the meadow, and only briefly. That was in June. Both cows were black. One was huge and had a white face. The other was smaller–maybe a teenage cow. They looked at me inquisitively as I walked by on the dirt road leading to the campground. The cows were gone the next day. I have no idea where they went.
Last season, the cows in the meadow chomped down all the grass and either ate or trampled the corn lilies. If any wildflowers began to grow, the cows ate them before they bloomed. Those cows kept the vegetation short. Last summer, the meadow looked as if it had been mowed.
This summer, the lack of cows in the meadow has lead to glorious grassiness. The grass has grown tall (above my knees). The corn lilies are tall too. Also, wildflowers are flourishing in the meadow. There are white flowers I think are Queen Anne’s Lace. There are orangey-yellow flowers with brown middles–what we called brown-eyed Susies when I was a kid. There are purple flowers too, but I don’t know their name.
I enjoyed having the cows around last summer. They were nice to look at, and it was comforting to hear them going about their bovine business at night. Sometimes I talked to them when I was particularly lonely. However, I’m also enjoying this summer’s beautiful meadow view. (I can almost understand why Californians are so damn fond of their meadows.)
Last year the cows moved in late in June or possibly in July. This season, June came and went, then July did the same and all I’d seen of the cows were the two black ones who seemed to have only spent one night in the meadow. Then one evening during the second week in August, there was another brief bovine visit.
It was dusk. I was sitting on the floor of my van with the side doors open. I was making a hat and listening to a podcast when a noise outside my campsite caught my attention. There was one set of campers in the campground, with a site way on the other side, but the kids had been running around the whole place all evening. I figured it was them I was hearing. But when I looked up, I didn’t see any children.
I saw creatures–big creatures–ambling in my direction. At first I thought the creatures were horses (and I imagined they were being ridden by cowboys), but pretty quickly, I realized I was seeing cows!
There were four of them. Three were all black, but one had the all white face I’d seen earlier in the summer. They were on the road, heading in my direction. They were moving at a steady pace, not running, but moving briskly. I said something like Hello ladies, and they froze. I hadn’t yelled, just spoken in a normal tone of voice. That apparently was enough to stop them in their tracks.
I wanted a photo of them, but I knew it was too dark for the camera on my phone to produce a visible image. I also knew that moving around to find my real camera probably would make these shy, half-wild mountain cows nervous enough to leave. No way would they stick around for another photo once the flash went off. So I sat tight.
The cows regarded me calmly, but with suspicion. I watched them, curious to see what they would do next. Long minutes passed while we looked at each other.
One of the campers must have been in the nearby restroom because a door slammed, and the noise was loud in the quiet of the evening. Three of the cows bolted. Their hooves thundered in the dirt as they ran toward the meadow. It was a very small stampede!
The fourth cow didn’t seem bothered by the noise. It didn’t run at all, but instead followed slowly behind the others.
I don’t know where the cows went, but I didn’t hear them in the meadow later in the night.
The next day when I came back from the parking lot, I saw four cows near the front of the meadow. Where these the cows of the night before? Had they broken off from a larger group to form their own herd?
The cows were gone again the next day. I haven’t seen them since.
I took all of the photos in this post.