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Relax and Save a Cow

credit to Natalia Slastnikova

Scrolling through my emails, I noticed one from the ACT. The subject line read “Important change to your ACT Test Status – ACTION REQUESTED.”

Hmm. All caps. That can’t be good, I thought.

I clicked on the email and discovered that My Sun’s ACT venue had been changed. Originally she was signed up to take the early morning five to six-hour exam at a community college about fifteen minutes away. We had moved here fairly recently, so I had no idea where the new location would be.

Gee, what were the odds they relocated it closer, maybe across the street walking distance? My guess was the odds were about the same as Little Man coming home from one of his walks without some kind of reptile or amphibian: ZERO.

I jumped onto the Maps app and plugged in the new location.

Of course.

I did not look forward to telling My Sun that her exam would now take place almost an hour away, bumping our departure time up from 7:30 to 6:45 am. She was not thrilled but took it in stride.

We both rolled out of bed and coffeed up bright and early that morning. My prayers of a last-minute change back to the original venue had not been answered. I asked if she had everything she needed. She grumbled back at me that she needed to concentrate so she wouldn’t forget anything. I slipped out to the car and waited. When she climbed in, I started to ask again.

“I have everything, Mom. My ticket, ID, calculator, snack. I have everything,” she said.

“Okee dokee. Just checking.”

I caught a glimpse of a grumpy eye roll when I looked over my shoulder to back out of the garage. And, we were off. The drive was long but pleasant. There was almost no traffic on this early Saturday morning in July and we wound our way up through quiet country roads toward our destination.

We had almost arrived according to the GPS when a couple of cows to the left caught my eye. A vast peaceful stretch of ranch land extended out beyond a barbed-wire fence bordering the small country road. Brush covered portions of the fence and trees leaned over it from both sides. The speed limit on the road seemed high for a winding country road with one lane in each direction, and there didn’t seem to be much green between the blacktop and the barbed wire. In the second or two that I saw the cows, it almost looked like they were on the street side of the fence.

It’s probably an illusion, I thought.

I was pretty tired and only caught a quick look before they disappeared behind the brush and overgrowth of weeds and wildflowers. I let the thought go and we arrived at the test site about five minutes later.

“Ready to roll?” I asked. “Got everything?”

“Yes, Mom.” She was starting to get a little exasperated with me.

“Good luck. Text me when you are in and all set. In bocca al lupo.” I said smiling.

I didn’t expect the customary Italian “crepi il lupo” back. She looked back and smiled.

“Thanks, Mom. See you later.”

I waited and watched as she worked her way along the line and into the building. I was positioning the car to head back home when I received a text.

“Ummm. Sorry, Mom. I just realized I forgot my water. I guess it’s not a big deal …”

I knew the dot dot dot was code for “is there any possible way you have water in the car or something?” I texted back that I would try to get her some before she had to go in and start. A quick check of the GPS showed we were in luck. There was a gas station right down the road.

I picked up a bottle of water and got back to the test site just in time to hand it off to My Moon, who now sported a sheepish grin. Crisis averted. After an early wake-up, the long drive, and the dash for water, I was exhausted.

The image of the cows popped back into my mind for some reason. Something kept telling me they had been on the roadside. What if they had walked into the road?

I pulled up my GPS and plugged in our home address. As often happens, the app wanted to take me a totally different way to get home. The estimated time savings would be a good ten minutes. I was tired and wanted to get home so I could run a few errands before I would have to drive back up to get her after the test. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about the cows.

My rational mind tried to convince me that enough time had passed that even if they had been on the roadside, by now they had probably gone back to the pasture to be with the rest of the herd. They were fine. I needed to get home.

I stared down at the GPS and finally changed the route to match the one we had driven earlier. I was pretty sure I remembered where the cows were. It wouldn’t hurt to just take a look. Besides, it was a pretty road, much more pleasant than the highway the GPS now preferred.

I slowed the car just a bit as I neared the spot where I had seen the cows. There they were, a mother and her calf … on the roadside of the fence. I stopped the car and put on my hazard lights. The calf was on the very edge of the blacktop now, considering a trip across to the other side. His mom was not far behind when he took a step forward. I noticed a car stopped at a crossroads just beyond the cows. He, too, was staring at them, concerned. We looked at each other and both hunched our shoulders, not sure what to do next.

I gave a quick toot of my horn to try to convince the calf that crossing was not a good idea. I didn’t want to completely freak them out, but I was worried that if a car came barreling down the road it would not have time to stop.

The sound definitely caught his attention and changed his mind. Not only, but mamma cow had something to say about it, as well. The two took off toward the ranch, running alongside the fence until they found a way back in.

They had just found an opening when I heard the screeching of tires and saw a car come to a halt behind me, its nose partway onto the shoulder so as not to make contact. The woman in the car held her hands up and mouthed “sorry”. The man at the crossroads ran his hand across his forehead in the universal “whew” gesture. The three of us watched the cows leave the roadside and run full speed across the pasture.

I pulled up to the intersection and rolled down the window.

“That was close. I’ll go let them know the fence is down,” he said.

On the drive home, it hit me. I had been startled by my own close call, but if I hadn’t been there right then … if the test hadn’t been moved … if I had followed the GPS … there is no way the woman behind me would have been able to avoid the calf and perhaps even the mother cow. That would have been disastrous both for the animals and for the woman and any passengers in her car. I had potentially saved a cow or two, and possibly a person or two.

Sometimes, to our great frustration, life puts us somewhere we truly do not wish to be. And, sometimes it turns out to be the place we need to be. The next time you are grumpy and bothered about your plans being upended … relax and try to enjoy your new path.

Who knows. Maybe you’ll end up saving a cow.

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