Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vaca Mexicana

Vaca Mexicana
©Ken Harris, 2008

In 1956 or 57 my wife and I lived in a Hollywood apartment and attended universities. We were both working very hard and welcomed the opportunity to take a brief vacation whenever we could. Usually we went to Joanne’s parents’ mining claim on Paiute Mountain in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Usually we took Bobo, a poodle, with us.

Bobo was very intelligent and could learn anything in five minutes. This was fortunate because he could forget anything he wanted in ten minutes. He would also put his own spin on his orders of the day. “Don’t get on the couch” meant “wait until everyone has gone for the day.” But he was pleasant company even with his faults.

On this particular occasion we had finished supper in the cabin and the three of us went for a walk to the meadow several hundred yards to the north. We gingerly crawled through a rusty barbed wire fence surrounding the pasture and noted the sign of many cattle. The meadow was part of the Bureau of Land Management domain and overgrazing seemed to be a part of their policy.

We came across the herd. There were a lot of them. Mexican cows, some with twisty horns, all of them lean. A few had extravagant brands on their hips. None of them looked like Elsie. The herd bull stood to the far side of the herd and ignored us. He didn’t look like Elmer, either. His disinterest in us was his only redeeming trait that I could see.

We stayed clear of the herd and tried to keep within running distance of the fence. It was just as well we had, for Bobo found a calf. He immediately tried to play a game with the calf, something named “I chase you around.” The calf cried, “Mama!”

The old lady showed up immediately. As soon as she saw Bobo and us her expression changed from exasperation to menace. She was a strawberry road cow, so lean you could count her ribs with long, twisty, glinting horns. The right horn could have gone in my navel and out my nose.

We called for Bobo, quietly. “Bobo.” Then firmly. “Bobo!” Then desperately. “BOBO!!!”

By this time the cow had decided which of us she wanted to gore first and she began to move. So did we. I beat Joanne to the fence by several yards at once demonstrating speed and lack of gallantry. Bobo, delighted that we had joined in the game, yapped and barked harder.

The calf ran away from all the noise and confusion and the cow followed. And that’s all of the story. Nothing really happened. Except I remember thinking the next morning as I shaved, “This is ridiculous. Indians don’t get grey at 23.”

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