In my entire life of countless road trips on prairie pasture-lined highways, driving by cows and horses has never gotten old. They’ve always been a break in the monotonous wheat field blankets patched with yellow canola. Animated creatures to wonder about once you tire of imagining that carebears will reveal themselves in the clouds.
While from a car we’d yell “cows!” to brown and black lumps video framed in the window and seemingly static on the field, on a bike details emerged: eyes, ears, bigger and smaller and chewing.
Animals that don’t bat an eyelash to traffic astonishingly paid attention to us. They stared and as we biked away their heads and gaze followed. Occasionally they took a few steps in our direction and once two young cows had seen us and they galloped alongside the road. How often do you see cows gallop?
I loved how bike touring could bring you so close to your surroundings. But honestly it can expose you to some bad stuff too: pollution from vehicles, their noise and the dirt they stir up (and the occasional rabid dog). This would never make me give it up but at least I have a choice. It was honestly the first time that I thought about cattle, horses, sheep, etc. living alongside roads and always exposed to traffic.
Maybe they learn to ignore. Are they bothered? How do they perceive the difference between periods of high and low traffic or between a hot, dusty day and a rainy-fresh one? The picture above was taken North of Jenner, CA in an area where cows can roam freely. These ones chose to sit between the road and a 500-ft drop to the ocean.
What is traffic to them and how does it affect the occasional hamburger I eat? It’s kind of sad that an animal will spend its life by a road as people who use it drive by and by again.