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Friday, August 17, 2012

Hijacked by Cows in the Yorkshire Dales: Part 2

Yorkshire Dales National Park

In the movie “City Slickers,” three friends from New York spend their vacation on a cattle-drive from New Mexico to Colorado.  While each faces a major crisis, the two weeks away from family, surroundings, and routine helps him return with a renewed vigor for life, and solutions to his problems.  

In driving through the Dales, we had planned to visit a few key places, while experiencing the beauty of the surrounding landscape.  But visiting the first village on our itinerary proved impossible, and even enjoying the landscape proved difficult, due to the twisting nature of the roads, the need to keep a watchful eye on the satellite navigation device, and the lack of any shoulder or run-off area in which to stop and capture picturesque views.

When the driver of the car ahead of us chose not to turn and speed ahead of the cows, he forced us to linger behind them as well.  The motorcyclist behind us pulled to the side of the road, shut off his engine, and waited until the cows had plodded along for a couple hundred yards.  Then he switched it on, rode up behind them, pulled over, and shut off his engine again.  More cars joined the queue, stopping and crawling in the animals' wake.  Oncoming cars stopped to wait, and when the herd (each of the cows weighing as much as a small, European car) coursed past them, the drivers were allowed to continue on their way.  Meanwhile, we were forced to stop and crawl, stop and crawl, stop and...well, you get the picture. 

A mother guards her young.

What I initially saw as a trial became a blessing.  By being forced to slow down, we were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.  The farms we had flashed past became expanses to admire.  The little dots of white in the grass resolved into sheep who gazed back at us, the mothers standing close by their young as we passed.  Our rented Peugeot, that French lion that had once taken us to see a giant horse and a Mouseman, silenced its roar, as the engine cut off when we stopped or rolled downhill at walking pace.  Plants, trees, and farm buildings that decorated the rolling landscape became objects to be studied and appreciated rather than ignored.  

We rolled down the windows, and heard the calls of the farmhands as they urged their charges onward.  A breeze wafted into the car, bringing with it the not unpleasant aroma of the surrounding farmland.  My wife and I talked about the cows, the farms, the experiences we had enjoyed, and anything other than the next turn or roundabout.  In that time-stretched moment, we lived at a farmer’s pace, in a farmer’s surroundings.

Fifteen or twenty minutes after it turned onto the road ahead of us, the tractor turned left, and the cattle followed him off the road.  We rolled up the windows as our French lion roared.  Once again we sped along twisting narrow roads.  Beautiful scenery flashed past.  Before being hijacked by the cattle, neither my wife nor I had faced any significant crises.  Yet that long, lingering moment in which we traveled behind that herd worked the same magic on us that the cattle-drive did for Mitch, Ed, and Phil.  We no longer frowned over what we had missed, but smiled about what we had shared.  

We would go on to greet the rest of our day in the Yorkshire Dales with a renewed appreciation for everything we saw and did.  Just being in the Yorkshire Dales National Park was special. In some ways, I think those minutes spent following the herd might have been the most special of them all.

Suffering from a bovine version of Stockholm syndrome,
Dragon Dave

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