Skip to main content

FIELD NOTES: Of Cows and Men

On my way to get a cup of coffee early Saturday morning, I came across a strange sight along a lonely stretch of rural road. A dead cow was lying in a shallow ditch just a couple of feet off the pavement. Several other cows grazed contentedly on the other side of an intact wire fence, oblivious to the fate of their fallen sister. I wondered what had happened. How did the cow escape the apparently undamaged fencing? How does a cow just drop dead along the side of the road? Do cows have heart attacks? I also wondered if anyone had informed the farmer and whether cows are insured against sudden death. But mostly, I felt bad for the deceased cow.

I passed the cow again later in the day. No one had made any obvious attempt to move it, and it occurred to me that a full-grown cow must weigh over a thousand pounds and would most likely require a front-end loader to lift it out of that ditch and onto a flatbed truck for a trip to the landfill or the rendering plant.

I was up in that neck of the woods celebrating my 60th birthday by clearing a plot of land where I hope to build a cabin one day. I welcomed my 40th birthday as finally reaching the age where people would take me seriously. I shrugged off my 50th, climbing Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, to prove I could still do anything my 40-year-old self could. But 60, that's a different number altogether. Sixty is old; no getting around it. One in ten Americans don't live to see their 60th birthday.

On Sunday morning, I attended a small country church within walking distance of my land. The mountains are peppered with these tiny spiritual outposts, spaced just a couple of miles from each other; a nod, I suppose, to the days before automobiles when the community walked or rode horses to Sunday services. I suspect the same dozen or so families have been attending that church since before my progenitors came to this country, and I wasn't entirely sure how they would react to an outsider. 

They welcomed me with open arms, and while the service was somewhat different than what I'm used to, maybe that's a good thing. The preacher's sermon was on how we do not know the hour of our demise and tomorrow is not promised. It concluded with the story of a church member, "Jim."

"When Jim woke up on Friday, he didn't know he would be in a terrible accident. And when he left work at 2 a.m. Saturday morning, he didn't know what was waiting for him on his drive home. And when he hit that cow, black as night in the middle of the road, he surely wondered, is this the end? Is my time on this earth up? Now, Jim will be alright, but it could have ended very differently..." Well, one life mystery solved.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Don't Listen to the Old Man in the Pickup Truck

As economic development director for Anson County, I strongly urge you to vote FOR the Mixed Beverage* Election November 8th. But, more importantly, I encourage you to listen to the voices of the young professionals upon whom the future of the county will depend. If you look closely at the lower right-hand corner of the blue and white signs urging a FOR vote on Mixed Beverages, you will see they are paid for by YP Anson. So what is YP Anson? Is it some political action committee funded by out-of-state alcoholic beverage manufacturers and casino owners? No, it's Young Professionals Anson, an organization made up of and funded entirely by local business people and community members under the age of 40.  They are the bankers, real estate agents, lawyers, shop owners, entrepreneurs, factory managers, and tradespeople who will lead Anson County into the next decade and beyond. Most of them were born and raised here, left to get a college education, and chose to return and raise a family

FIELD NOTES: Truck

Ford Motor Company recently announced they are suspending orders for their Maverick (A) compact truck because they have outsold the company's capacity to manufacture them. The Maverick is an anomaly in today's pickup truck market, where bigger is better, and even bigger is even better. My "midsize" Toyota Tacoma is as large as many full-size pickups from the early 2000s. A new full-size F-150 or Silverado wouldn't have looked out of place at a monster truck show in the '70s.  The major truck manufacturers justify their increasingly enormous vehicles by claiming "no market" for smaller trucks. The success of the Maverick, however, would seem to contradict that.  The Maverick is based on the Ford Escape compact SUV, and while it is slightly longer than the Escape, it is significantly smaller than any other pickup currently sold in the U.S. It does not have the towing capacity or off-road capabilities of larger trucks, but it should work just fine for t

FIELD NOTES: Solar Is Everywhere and Nowhere

I received a Science Fair 20-in-1 Electronics Project kit for Christmas one year in my early teens. It consisted of 15 "blocks," each with a component like a transistor or a diode that could be wired together to create projects like an oscilloscope, rain alarm, or diode radio. One of the blocks was a solar cell about the size of a postage stamp. It produced very little power, even in direct sunlight, but it did demonstrate that electricity could be generated directly from the sun, a technology that was getting a lot of publicity in the early '70s. The mass market "technical" magazines of the day, Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, featured articles about the exciting future of solar energy while acknowledging several hurdles to overcome before it ever became a mainstream power source. Those publications were sure, however, that advances in photovoltaic (PV) cells and electric storage would make solar energy ubiquitous by the turn of the century. In some ways