Dying Cow Days

curve along the Rio Grande near Pilar

Curve beside the real Rio Grande, way down deep inside the canyon

“MOOugnnnn! MOOugnnn! MooUGNNN!” just now at nine o’clock at night, over and over for a dozen cycles, then fades. It happens any time of day or night these days. There are farms of some sort in the valley at the bottom of the hill, down there where the Rio Grande del Rancho flows. (That’s what they call it, but there are places they’d call it a creek.) I don’t really understand it, these little operations. You never see more than a handful of cows at one time. What are they actually doing down there besides growing a little alfalfa and raising dogs? Going to day jobs, I’ll bet. Meanwhile morning, noon, and night, the squalling beast I imagine is stuck in a hole. Maybe it’s too big for coyotes to bring down. Or maybe they are! Were it only the mighty puma, we’d have some peace real quick.

This is a funny neighborhood we’re in. It’s like driving through an old farmyard. The damnedest things go on behind ramshackle fences on muddy lanes. I peeked between the boards around the corner once one frigid winter day and found myself eyeball-to-eyeball with a steer: his breath was steaming, just like mine, and he had frost around his nose. Farther up the road is a place that’s hard to describe. It looks like an acre’s worth of rusty sheet metal, old tires, and caved-in little buildings fell out of the sky. The owner has a herd of maybe fifty sheep and goats, and every now and then he takes them out to graze along the acequia. It’s quite a sight to see him on his horse with his sheep dogs and herd. Sometimes we have to stop in the road to let them go by.

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