February 1, 2015
(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)
I greeted this morning at Geri and Gary Slack’s Sun Dancer Lodge, near Shenandoah National Park, after spending a delightful evening with them and other friends of theirs. Dinner for 14, conversation with German friends and local character "Mountain" Bill, burning logs in the fireplace and plentiful wine led to a sound sleep.
After breakfast, I took a walk in the crisp country air with camera in hand. I thought I was alone as I eavesdropped on private conversations among some hawks until I noticed some eyes staring at me. In a field I was passing, a herd of black cows had stopped their grazing to look at me in unison. Every one of them. Being gregarious (gregare has Latin roots for “flock” or “together”), the cows followed their leader to approach me close to the fence. I had an attentive group that seemed to be waiting on the other side of the fence for me to do something.
So I talked to them. I asked them if they were hungry, commented on the cold morning, tried a couple of “moo’s” which caused one to respond likewise and another to apprehensively back away from me. With the exception of one creature who tried to mount one of its companions, my audience uncannily fixed their eyes on me. The thought crossed my mind that I wish I had had this kind of power when I was teaching seventh graders.
When I told them goodbye and turned away, the herd followed me alongside the barbed wire fence until they could go no further. After walking another 50 yards, I turned to look again, expecting they would have left the fence but they were still watching me. I felt like a cow whisperer and began to think that maybe they were expecting something more from me than casual conversation. That connection made me have second thoughts about what I eat but not enough that I would refuse the steak dinner that David fixed tonight.
Today's gift was a bovine audience.