Barnyard Music

Our youngest son and his wife recently purchased 70 acres along the Palouse River in eastern Washington State. We just got back from a five-day visit with them. We got to know “the farm,” and got to help getting things ready for their eventual move to it. Those things included helping him replace bad beams under the house, painting walls, and moving their two heritage short-horn cows from a shed to a makeshift pasture. That caper stands out as one of the hilarious highlights of the week.

Moving the cows meant getting them to leave the shed they’ve been living in for the last month or so, getting them onto the road that runs down to the haybarn, then moving them across a railroad track into the pasture. At one point they bolted in the opposite direction, sending my son racing to head them off. Soon they were thundering down toward my wife and me again, only to take a wrong turn into the haybarn (wrong for us, not for them, I’m sure.) We finally got them up to the rails, and found they were reluctant to cross at the car-crossing. The Railroad Company had laid down ties longwise to provide an even surface for wheeled traffic to cross, and it looked to the cows like a cattle-guard. At one point the smaller cow actually inserted her feet vertically into the slots between the ties, giving us all visions of broken ankles. Finally, we were successful in tempting them with alfalfa hay off the crossing where they stepped over the rails like they were logs on the ground. They virtually bolted into the pasture from there and we all breathed a sigh of relief as we closed the gate.

Life through the eyes of a cow is just not the same as life through the eyes of a person. What looks big and scary to us is nothing to them, whereas innocuous things like a waved hat sent them scampering the other way. It takes some doing to step outside the human animal’s experience of the world, especially colored as it is by history, experience, culture and personality, and into the head of a bovine, but it’s worth it. The created order is full of such alien minds with whom we must live in harmony.

Harmony: the blending of different voices on harmonic resonances (my definition.) Harmony presupposes both diversity and unity. As midterm elections draw near, name-calling, broad-net simplistic answers to complicated questions, selective application of moral imperatives, and general demonization of the perceived “other” are not blending in harmony from where I stand, but rather raising a cacophonous discord. Maybe we need a little more barnyard music.

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