Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Bellows

You ever notice how practically every single John Wayne movie - heck, I think even the war pictures - seemed to feature big herds of cattle, mooing and bellowing away? And how every single cattle scene sounded EXACTLY the same? I'm of the mind that it's because the exact same audio was used for all of those films. Now, don't quote me on this, but I'm fairly certain that Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall snuggled up to the very same audio track in their camp scenes in 'Lonesome Dove.' (Ok, they didn't snuggle up together; I'm not playing that fast and loose with the cinematic references.) If you have spent the past couple of decades wondering who the distinctive talent was that provided the voiceover for all those classic Western scenes, I can tell you the answer.

It was the cows across the way, right here in the high desert of northeastern Arizona, at this very moment across from Morning Dove Farm.* It's true. I'd recognize that canned bellowing and complaining anywhere. (*We still don't have a name. We'll just keep throwing ideas out there till one sticks.)

This is our second fall and nearly our third winter on the farm, and each year it takes me by surprise when the creatures that typically serenely dot the landscape at a fair distance across the way suddenly show up in the neighborhood and become this bawling, mooing mass of cows and calves. I don't know what on earth is going on during these noisy days and nights a few days each year, but we've made our guesses: these cows are seriously, desperately looking for love and are enamored of a rare breed of bovine menfolk that are all blind, requiring incessant, undulating, unrelenting cries from these hefty, sultry ladies to find their way to paradise; mamas and babies are being viciously separated, and the mamas are squalling and inconsolable, looking for their poor lost lambs (I know they're not called lambs; it's a metaphor, or an analogy or something); some poor newcomer is over there, blindfolded, enduring the annual, minimum 72-hour Marco Polo Marathon hazing tradition, broadcast each year on RFD-TV, which will not end until the bandanna-wearing heifer retrieves the golden corn cob from the tallest salt cedar shrub, or some such nonsense.

I don't know what is going on, and haven't had the gumption to ask my neighbors who are riding their horses importantly among all the racket, looking to all the world like they ought to be undertaking their cowboy ways out on the wide range, with wisps of smoke from the morning's campfire in the background, rather than alongside a black top road, just a hop, skip and a jump from Interstate 40 and Old Route 66, and within view of their own pick up trucks and SUVs.

Regardless of what's prompting the ladies to carry on, I love it. I absolutely love to hear their raucous complaints, up close to the road or straining from further back in the pasture. It reminds me of my college days when once in awhile I got to roam the rangelands of southern Arizona horseback during calving season or just before winter when cattle needed to be moved to winter pasture. I was positively useless during those adventures, except for cooking a hot meal at the end of a cold day a time or two, but there was just something about knowing the 5 or 6 of us humans and our horses, along with however many head of cattle lazily lumbering along, were the only souls for a few hundred square miles or so. (Well, the only souls that weren't slithering along the ground or scampering atop rocks and under bushes, anyway.) Those were wonderful times, watching the cowboys expertly rounding up strays; seeing those precious baby calves peeking out from behind their moms' rumps; having no earthly clue how ridiculous it was that I insisted on wearing my tennis shoes on round up to prevent my pretty cowboy boots from being scratched or scuffed on the trail....Oh, to be 18 and clueless again.

While I suppose there are some people along our country lane who might be sleeping a little lighter these days with all the bellowing and bawling going on, frankly, I'm wishing it weren't so chilly so I could open the windows and let the carrying on invade my sleep; then, I could go back 22 years and 90 lbs or so, before gray hair and stretch marks, to some wonderful nights out with the cattle; the stars in a wide black sky; smelling the creosote, my all-time favorite outdoor fragrance; and exploring the southwestern desert winding in and out of rugged mountain passes. Those were some amazing times.

Love from the farm but dreaming of the open range,

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