how now, brown cow

I remember the first time I visited where I live in Nebraska.

The cows were the wrong color.

I grew up in the heart of dairy country in Wisconsin. Holsteins are the overwhelming norm along with Jerseys and the growing Brown Swiss. Black and white dominate barns. Dairy cows aren’t often seen outside roaming the countryside, instead staying in large barns.

Now I live in the heart of beef country. It’s not uncommon to see a few hundred head roaming free across massive pastures. Pastures so large that country roads go right through them without a fence in sight, auto gates forcing you to slow down and sometimes hang tight, and the only telltale sign of cattle is the dotty smattering of cow pies laying by water holes.

A few weeks back I drove four hours round trip to the nearest Social Security office. I left when it was still fairly dark out and the road was patched with fog. On my return trip the sun was actually out for once, melting the last of the wind torn snow. Visibility was about as far as it can be when driving through the constant roll of the Sandhills region.

During one stretch on some fairly flat ground at opposite sides of the highway, two different sets of cattle grazed. On the west side was a large herd of brown Herefords. Black Angus mingled on the east.

I took notice, albeit not initially thinking of it. There’s not much to do on this particular drive. There’s no cell reception, no radio reception, only one small town at the halfway mark. It is a stretch of road where it’s not uncommon to see a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road and it’s occupants taking a leak against a tire or in the ditch. (When you have to go, you have to go.)

Then, it dawned on me.

These solid brown and solid black cows are now my norm.

And for the rest of the drive I craved to see a big red barn set against lush green grass. A giant immaculately packed tightly tarped silage pile. A tanker backed up to a parlor. A feed mixer.

The type of lonely longing that comes with being away from a place too long and too inconsistent.

I miss the black and white cows.

Now they seem to be the wrong color.

(This was orginally posted on my previous blog which has been deleted, but felt the need to archive it over here.)

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