A lot like a cow

I don’t recall any special education intervention in the classroom, nor an audiologist taking me out of my grade school classroom, testing me in a sound proof room, but I had trouble deciphering sounds in grade school, and somehow there I was in the basement of my family home sitting in a chair opposite my mother, with a flat baking pan about 24” x 16” filled with a layer of common beach sand positioned on a bridge table between the two of us.   To my right was my train set about chest high on a platform, and next to that an ironing board.  Using her index finger, my mother would spell out a phoneme, and then pronounce it in a distinct voice, and then the phoneme and the entire word it was part of, enunciating in an exaggerated way, so there would be no confusion for me.  I in turn would repeat the same steps, and thus integrate the sound and the spelling of the phoneme and the entire word.  We did this repeatedly over and over again.  I had a particularly hard time distinguishing sounds like “sk”, “sh”, “cr”.  When asked what to call this ailment, I was told it was a simply a “lazy tongue”.  The remedy was to re-learn how to use it.  I had a particularly hard time saying my brother’s first name: “Skip”.  His real name was Samuel, but my mother never called him that.  The story I remember was the next door neighbor’s son’s name was Skip, and if Skip was good enough for the neighbor, it was good enough for my brother.  It stuck.  He was and continues to be known as Skip, all through his professional and private life.  I eventually learned how to say my problematic sounds and carried on.

Another time, many years later, while in my early teens, I remember fielding a survey question from my mother.  She wanted to know if I had one sense lost or eliminated from the five senses we were born with, which one would that be.  (We didn’t talk about a possible sixth sense.)  That’s a pretty tough question to answer for anyone; loss of any sense would be disabling especially if you had it one day and the next day it was lost forever.  Sight? Hearing? Touch? Taste? Smell?  I ruled out “taste” and “smell” as minor senses compared to the others. Upon some discussion, I said “sight” would be the greatest loss for me.  My mother’s choice was “touch”.  And so we compared and contrasted these two senses with examples and critical analyses.   Surprise, surprise!  It turns out, as an adult I learned that I am a strong visual learner; actually my visual acuity is off the charts.  And surprise again, it’s especially helpful as my audio processing could improve.  Of course, I’m not in the league with Ted Williams’ visual acuity. He had documented 20/10 vision, meaning he could see from 20 feet away what normal-sighted people could see from 10 feet away.  But it helps explain how he was a tremendous ball player, able to see an approaching fastball thrown 90 feet away, faster than other ball players.

Another “what if” game that I played growing up: What kind of animal would I be if I were one?  It didn’t matter that we had no pets. No dogs. No cats. No birds. Friends had dogs and cats, but in my family of origin, we had none and I didn’t really know much about animals. We didn’t live near a farm or zoo, though I had been to both.  We had a snapping turtle that we kept in a carton in the enclosed screened porch for about two or three days, until my mother made my brother return it to the swamp area down the street, near the golf course in Natick.  Of course, I never forgot that my brother, forever the jokester,  would tell people that I was his pet, when others asked if we had any pets while growing up.  Hahaha!

But if I were an animal, it might very well be a male cow. Cows have it pretty good (until they are viciously slaughtered, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). They meander around, grazing, and then lie down in grassy land under a clear blue sky.  Actually, they spend 8 hours a day eating, 8 hours a day chewing cud, and 8 hours a day sleeping.  They don’t seem to have troubles or existential problems.  They look kind of serene.  I like that. Even in my retirement.

When I think of a cow I think of grazing on a pasture. Grazing is sort of like snacking; it’s the act of eating small amounts of food throughout the day rather than gorging oneself on one big meal. Grazing for me is more than just standing up, neck bent over, chewing grass or cud all day.  For me, grazing refers to a style of being.  It’s just going about one’s day methodically, quietly, on one’s own, sometimes alone and sometimes in a larger group setting (herd).  For me, grazing is following the edict of “slow and steady”, rather than doing things in a burst of energy, or waiting to the last minute to get things done, to handle one’s activities of daily living.  To me grazing is self-care and self-maintenance.

Scientists say that cows like to play, they exhibit fear and anxiety, and are considered bright and emotional animals with a full range of personalities: boldness, shyness, sociability and temperamental-ability as well.  Holy Cow!  In all these ways, I seem to be a lot like a male cow.

In America, while cows are generally thought of strictly in terms of being commodities for food consumption (think beef, steak, steer, hamburgers, etc), they, like dogs and cats and parrots have intelligence, and can have rewarding and loving relationships with their masters (humans). Humans eat all kinds of animals in huge volumes – cows, turkeys, chickens, pigs, etc., but spare themselves from eating domesticated animals like dogs and cats.  Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado would certainly agree that we should not eat cows. He writes extensively about how it is in our own best interests as well as the planet’s, and our animal friends to compassionately care for them, not eat them.

Once you get to know a cow, the cow becomes more like a part of one’s family.  A mighty big family member. Holstein can easily weigh 1,500 lbs, whereas dairy cows are a little smaller.  Cows are lovable and endearing, just like a pet dog; just like Lassie, or Tramp in My Three Sons or Tiger in the Brady Bunch. Even Elsie the Cow, Borden Foods’ mascot from the 1940s – 1960s was a perky friendly cow (as was her husband Elmer, the face of Elmer’s Glue, who repaired things around the house, on orders from his wife).

Cows are social and like people, they will make friends and bond with other herd members, while avoiding others. (Sounds like me again).  Cows are lovable and in this light it seems cruel to consume them. Eating the family pet?  Sounds almost like cannibalism . I imagine that’s something Donald Trump wouldn’t take issue with, but not me.




Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

One thought on “A lot like a cow

  1. “For me, grazing is following the edict of “slow and steady”, rather than doing things in a burst of energy, or waiting to the last minute to get things done, to handle one’s activities of daily living. To me grazing is self-care and self-maintenance.”

    After many years of self-help therapy, my sister and I developed a shorthand phrase to remind ourselves and each other: “Just take the cat to the vet.” (We both had cats.) It meant just do the tasks you have to do everyday — without whining, without boasting, without advertising, without drama. Not fast, not slow. Not too soon, nor too late. Just go through your day taking care of yourself and the things in your life.


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