Tag Archives: cows

Dead cows tell no tales

When Mom visited us last week, we tooled around town. No really, we tooled around town, on the outskirts, north, east, and west. This is surprisingly easy, because two streets this way or that, and suddenly one finds oneself in a wheat field. Or at least, we thought it was wheat. It’s been a while since my farm girl of a mother saw wheat up close, but then there she was, clambering out of the car and her head down near the ground, surveying and investigating. She could have been Jessica Fletcher scouring a crime scene.

abandoned barnAs she was looking at the bright green whateveritwas, a man in a pickup truck drove by us on the dusty road. He managed to keep a tall western hat on his head, and he gave me the man nod as I waited for my parent to finish checking out the foliage. I nodded in return, but I’m not really sure why. What is the man nod supposed to mean? That I’m not here to pillage your town? That I’m in agreement on giving the most masculine salutation afforded by social expectations? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, even as I acknowledge that rolling down our windows to high five wouldn’t have made any more sense. But still, I nodded back at him.

She got back in her seat and announced to the two of us that in fact, it was wheat.

“I just didn’t remember it looking like grass,” she said, almost as if she really wanted to check the earth one last time, like running back into the house to make sure the oven is really, really, super turned off. We rumbled back along this road I’d never traveled, kicking up red dust behind us. We could have been a Mars rover, for all the wheat fields knew, although they were probably more certain than I was of where they came from.

We dead-ended at a T intersection, the car idling, bored, while I tried to figure out if Walla Walla was to our left or our right.

I picked right, making a guess. At noon the sun wasn’t going to give me any indication of where I headed. Where were my so familiar DC streets with their quadrant markers?

It should be noted that DC was once a small town in the midst of farms, fields, and livestock. Pierre L’Enfant liked it because of its intersection of two large waterways, the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. In that way it wasn’t very unlike what Walla Walla is now, I suppose. But certain things—population density of the East Coast, cheapness of land at the time, intentional urban planning by L’Enfant and Masons—helped DC metamorphosize into the large metropolis that it now is. Those things don’t really exist for the Wheat Farming Town that Could, even as it was the site of incorporation for the State of Washington, and its original capitol. Now Walla Walla is only big compared to Dixie, Washington, which has only a single school, and Milton-Freewater in Oregon, best known for the frog statues that run along its main thoroughfare.

So Walla Walla doesn’t need quadrants.

We drove past a farm with several head of cattle, and I saw one cow nudging its face on the still body of a calf. The baby was indeed lying at an awkward angle.

“Oh no,” I said, “I think that calf died.”

Mom looked through my side window. She nodded.

“That’s so sad!”

“Well, maybe he’s just resting,” she said, patting me on my knee.

“No, really?” We’d passed them now so I couldn’t keep looking back.

“I mean, I’ve never seen a calf rest like that, but sure, maybe.”

My mother was mothering her nearly 40-year-old child who really didn’t live in the if-I-don’t-know-for-certain-it-might-not-be-real world anymore. But it was nice, for a minute, to pretend that I was still that gullible.

Electing to

Last week, the voters spoke and changed the landscape of a state for the foreseeable future. I was beyond excited to see my fellow countrymen and women take the time to consider the ramifications of their vote, get educated on the issue, and cast their ballots. One million strong. A mandate, even.

It is a special feeling to know one has backed a winner.

Kirsten is the newest California cow! Go Kirsten!

She was my sentimental pick because she’s from Saskatchewan, homeland of my own mother. This isn’t to say that none of the other eight choices would have done well as the newest addition to the Real Milk Comes from California family, but Kirsten has her own place in my heart. With a jouissance I ventured to the Real MilkTM Web site to relish in my skosh of glory and see Kirsten frolicking in the pastures of the Golden State.

But what met my retinas was not the heifer I knew and loved. Or thought I knew. This, this was some imposter cow! The election officials surely thought they could fool everyone, but I know very well that cows don’t change their spots, or patches, or whatever the hell they’re called. These spots were different!

Don’t take just my word for it, check it out on your own. Look at Kirsten’s audition tape, and then look at one of the clips after her win. Yes, the voice is the same, but the cow, the cow is different. That’s just plain creepy.

So now, my heart aches. Where is my beloved farm girl? Did a Canadian wolf get her and California has now gone to some clandestine cover-up to keep their so-called election intact? Did Kirsten opt out to seek her fortunes in the next misdirected balloon saga? Did she sneak away to LA early so she could see a plastic surgeon and have a makeover? California’s Real Dairy farmers, tell us what’s become of our small town girl turned starlet!

Did Gary Condit have anything to do with it?

I don’t understand the behavior of cows

This was Susanne’s favorite quote from today. I of course am the utterer.  I was noticing how the cows out west here seem to all clump together in one part of the field, having no sense of personal space whatsoever. The New York cows, I noted, on the other hand, seem to have cliques. Susanne asked, seemingly genuinely, why I thought that was, to which I shrugged, giving the above response. We had other memorable lines today, including:

1. Looking at the following on the way to Weyburn, SK, we saw this:

 

Chieftan Motel

Chieftan Motel

Susanne: The funniest thing about it is why is he giving a Hitler salute?

2. Everett: You are the queen of the missed photo. This was said when we were driving past four semis, each carrying one propellor blade of a new windmill going up west of Minneapolis. She did not, however, find this humorous.

3. Susanne: You are the king of the missed photo. This in response to her needing to drive around the block so that I could get the picture for item #1.

Other stats from today:

Our total miles so far are 2420.

We’ve killed about 20 butterflies and thousands of other insects, mostly on the windshield. Oh, and one of those creepy orange millipedes, which apparently stowed away and made the poor decision to crawl across Susanne’s legs. He now lives no more.

We’ve driven past roughly 30,000 bales of hay. (Haaay, Jesse!) Here is proof.

 

Hay bales

Hay bales

If we drove past 30,000 bales of hay, we must have driven past 1 million sunflowers, all groomed nicely in fields in North Dakota. I suppose that’s where we get our sunflower oil.

We also saw this:

 

Canada Pacific rail

Canada Pacific rail

Awesome. I’ll try to get pictures of the ginormous granaries tomorrow, where the trains pull in and get tons of grain dumped into each car. After miles and miles of farmland, and possibly some missile silos, it’s been a bit monotonous. Today Susanne and I drove more in silence than any of our other days. I still feel like it’s all one grand adventure, which is good, but it’s starting to sink in that I don’t exactly have a home at the moment, even though I know I’ll make one. It’s exciting, this endless possibilities thing. Kind of like how the telephone lines in Saskatchewan go on and on forever. Susanne captured it in a shot.

 

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan

We drive into Lang tomorrow morning. I’ll take lots of pictures and see if I can find Mom’s old farm, or at least the farm plot. I’m sure there’s more to say, but it’s time to turn in.

Cows across America

 

me and cake

me and cake

We got up at the crack of dawn today–I actually saw the sunrise at Susanne’s parents’ house, which was gorgeous. As I am unable, I didn’t run down the stairs to grab my camera, but it was red and full over the tree line, and from the top of the hill where the house sits, it cast a pale ochre gleam across a half-sky of puffy clouds, battling the bright blue of the sky of the retreating night sky.

Okay, enough of that. We hit the road at 7:30 am and motored our way through to Kalamazoo and then the Michigan-Indiana state line. It was at this point that I realized that though there still are jerky drivers in the Midwest, they don’t come as fast and furious as they do in DC. It’s kind of like the easiest level of Frogger versus the later levels when the logs are all short and the otters are out in force. 

The drive was pretty uneventful; we stopped for gas a couple of times, and I saw a strange sight next to the station, a big pink elephant. Like the kind you’re supposed to see when you’ve kicked back a few too many.

 

Pink elephant statue in Elgin, IN

Pink elephant statue in Elgin, IN

We also saw that it was on a small road called “Elephant Trail,” which confusingly ended in a field (the field you see behind it). Trying to Google it I see there’s a large elephant monument in Elgin, Ontario, so I wonder if this has anything to do with that. Not too sure, since I’m now out of my neck of the country.

We had lunch in Illinois, in some random suburb of Chicago, in a building that looked like the bastard child of Denny’s and your friendly neighborhood orthodontist’s office. Denny’s in layout and menu, and Dr. Elkin in decoration and color choices. Hey, Dr. Elkin was my orthodontist at the Brace Place in New Jersey, and it looked just the same, okay? One buffalo chicken sandwich and California chicken croissant (which means it had two slabs of avocado on it) later, we were back on the road.

We entered Wisconsin and were suddenly confronted with billboard after billboard hocking cheese curds. No similar signs for whey, nor any mention of the availability of tuffets. I really think the tuffet lobbyists and marketers need to get off their lazy asses and stop the monopoly of ottomans. Further, descendants of the Ottoman empire who are out there reading this, how are you possibly okay with people thinking your greatest achievement is the footrest? That’s not the lasting legacy I’d be interested in, is all I’m saying.

So yes, cheese curds. We drove by cow herd after cow herd, standing, sitting, basking as it were, in their glory of cud chewing expertise. Brown Jersey cows, black and white cows, we’ve seen cows from New York through Wisconsin, but we hadn’t seen the barrage of “Lindsey’s cheese curds,” “Blue Hen cheese curds,” “Black Jack’s cheese curds,” all a mere highway exit away. It reminded me of driving through South Carolina seeing the plethora of signs for fireworks. Or Indiana, for that matter. I had no idea Indiana was the South Carolina of the Midwest, but there you have it.

As if the pressure to procure cheese curds wasn’t enough, I also noticed something strange. Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin all the people of color suddenly disappeared. Now they were just abstract concepts; a legend that humans come in more than pasty white and ruddy white. Even stranger, the white people themselves started to look different. Men were no longer avoidant of mustaches, or plaid pants. Women’s hair fashions got bigger and bigger, almost in some kind of direct correlation with the size of their sunglasses. I started to feel alienated, and it slowly dawned on me: these are not my people. I can only hope that these folks–and I’m sure they’re all LOVELY people–are not like the ones I’ll meet in Walla Walla. Please, God.

We left the rural highway and made our way past Eau Claire and into Minneapolis/St. Paul, where we had a lively dinner with Susanne’s former coworkers at our hotel restaurant. We managed 750 miles today! We’ll head out early again tomorrow to go into Saskatchewan where I shall attempt to track down my mother’s farm, where she grew up. Presumably it has not moved in the last 50 years, so if it’s still standing, I can catch it. I’ll be sure to post pictures. Speaking of pictures, I’ll end with these from the wilds of Wisconsin:

 

Wisconsin field

Wisconsin field

 

Welcome to Wisconsin sign

Welcome to Wisconsin sign

Empires tame and tacky

 

Emily and Jamie's cat Cindyrella

Emily and Jamie's cat Cindyrella

We started off today with a quiet cup of coffee with my sister Kathy on her porch. Well, rather, I started off today that way. The good doctor started off by getting some much needed sleep, having spent the past several nights up very late either packing or, in the case of last night, driving. We knew in advance there would only be one way to handle breakfast, by going to King’s in Newtown. This is a small building by the side of the road that is somewhat TARDIS like in its interior, with three separate rooms for dining and an outside gazebo. It features crazy, over the top meals like pumpkin spice and mascarpone-stuffed french toast, triple-decker burgers with all kinds of toppings, and absurdly good turkey gravy lovingly surrounding the most flaky, delicate biscuit you could ever sink your teeth into.

 

King's restaurant

King's restaurant

 

 

The problem with going to King’s, really, is the evil flag pole in Newtown. I suppose there are ways to get there without passing what is in fact, a car killing machine, not a symbol of patriotism, but it’s more fun to pass by it and snark about it. A recent Newtown transportation report said, “Because the Flagpole sits in the middle of a busy intersection with five roadway legs, it has been the site of many accidents, which tragically include fatalities.” The flagpole dates back to the late 1800s, and the current flagpole was erected in 1950. But dead people? Come on, residents of Newtown, let’s put something around this thing other than tiny green signs that read, “Keep Right.”

At any rate, the food is fantastic at King’s. Susanne ordered some Frankensteinian monstrosity of brunch cooking when she requested a cannoli cream-filled crepe that tasted amazing. I had the “Asparagus Lenny,” which was a creative way of saying ham, asparagus, and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce over English muffins. My nieces were nearly dismayed that anyone would choose to order something as disgusting as asparagus, but they pulled themselves together.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes and headed out, promising to visit again for Christmas.

New York is a big state, the Empire State, which basically means that all the drivers think the roads are for them to go as fast or slow as they like. There are also more angry bumper stickers out here than in most places–the jerk driver of the day today was a woman driving a small SUV with a hitch, and the hitch had a bad wheel that was wiggling as it went and, replete with the following message: If you hate logging use plastic toilet paper. Gee, I’ll have to make a note of that one. So it’s either . . . decimate our forest land and stress out endangered species and other wildlife . . . or wipe myself with Tupperware? Good to know those are mutually exclusive!

We drove across New York for 4 hours and into Syracuse, where we made a pit stop at my alma mater, Syracuse University, and I gave Susanne a somewhat frenetic tour of the campus, enough to show her the quad, memorial to the students killed on Pan Am 103 in 1988, and give her a sample of how ugly and far away the dorms (actually they’re delightfully called “residence halls”) are from the classrooms. We had some pizza at Cosmo’s, which is where I met my best buddy Lori, and there are only two changes to note from the last time I was there, one sad and one positively liberating–George, the pizza maker extraordinaire, who looked like Mel from Mel’s place, if he got caught in a taffy-pulling machine, has passed away, and the women waitstaff are no longer required to wear skirts or dresses. I’m happy to report that the pizza tastes exactly as I remembered it. I told the new pizza guy that he made it almost as well as George, and his response was, “well thank you, I sure hope so.” Lori’s former boss was there, a not-very pleasant lady who had a rather homophobic and short-sighted way of looking at life, and it was interesting to see that after all these years, she’s still in the same place, literally and figuratively, as if she built her own cell and locked herself right in. I’m not sure if she’s happy, but she’s never looked happy, I guess.

 

Bar stools Cosmo's Pizza in Syracuse

Bar stools at Cosmo's Pizza in Syracuse

We traveled on after our supper, getting back on the New York Thruway and cutting through small mountains, drumlins, and rich, green farmland. I took pictures of cows. I smelled the cows. Rather, I smelled what the cows made, but I know not to complain about the scent of cow manure, for I have also smelled pig manure, and wow, that is one of the worst smells I have ever encountered. It makes cow manure smell like Elizabeth Taylor’s latest perfume creation. Or maybe I have those reversed. Hmm.

Thruways and turnpikes and other toll roads are interesting inventions. Susanne made the point that out in Michigan there aren’t any toll roads because the residents pay taxes that support the infrastructure, but then they have to pay the toll to use the New York roads, too, even though that support doesn’t happen in reverse. I was nice and didn’t mention that no New Yorker was ever going to drive to Michigan. Anyway, though the Thruway may be getting loads of tax dollars for say, new asphalt, it doesn’t seem to be getting many funds in the way of nice printers for its fare tickets. Ours looked like this:

 

New York Thruway fare ticket

New York Thruway fare ticket

I won’t go into the usability of the design here, at least not today. Suffice it to say it was vaguely better than a butterfly ballot.

 

At any rate, we logged mile 710, pulling into the endlessly gaudy Seneca Nation Casino in Niagara Falls. We were at once swarmed by smiling, helpful valet service personnel, who gladly took our car and are, at this very moment, joyriding through Ontario. Little do they know we got complimentary wheel locks on our CR-V, which I’m sure will come in handy. If they blow my trip B odometer count, I’ll be pissed.

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