As a child growing up in Philadelphia, I neither knew nor cared much about cows. When the family piled into our car and headed west through the dairy states towards Minnesota, my dad’s home, I enjoyed seeing them, and idly wondered if it would rain whenever I saw them lying down. My cousins, unused to an East coast accent, begged me to say, how now brown cow, and fell on the floor laughing when I did.
Now that I live in rural Costa Rica, I’ve grown a little cow-crazy. That attachment began when we arrived, in 2009. Just a few yards and a crude wooden fence separated a mother cow and her calf from the terrace where we spent many of our waking hours.
Before our arrival, the local farmer who owned the pair had tried to separate them, but they’d mooed mournfully back and forth to each other for nights on end, until the farmer reunited them. We were the beneficiaries of that deed.
Mother and son were inseparable for the six months we lived in that house. The sight of that calf frolicking was pure visual tonic. Daily he raced back and forth kicking his gangly legs behind him as though he were trying to throw an invisible rider. We could never get enough of him.
But here on the San Juan side of Puriscal, cows are ubiquitous. Between our house and the top of the hill I climb every morning, bovine brothers and sisters on both sides of the road look up as I dash by. Moo, I shout, but they only stare silently, and rarely return my greeting.
At least once a month, an inquisitive Brahmin, and sometimes five or six of his buddies will nose open a gate and take a walk on the road. They’ll usually turn and retreat when a two-legged creature approaches. In fact, I’ve seen them jump over hedges to get away from me.
But sometimes a curious cow will also follow a running human, as an unfortunate neighbor woman learned when she tried running past a big bovine on her way to church one morning. That’s when I learned that some cows will respond to a stern command.
Stop, I shouted, in the same voice I use on my dogs, and watched in amazement as he did. I’ve decided I’m going to carry a carrot each morning, and see if I can make a bovine friend or two.