I wish you could have seen it. I wish everybody could have seen it.
Last night, just before sundown, so the light was too dim for us to get pictures, the first of the cows from New Jersey arrived. (These are the five cows that became a Facebook cause when the people who had been keeping them as pets decided to send them to slaughter. Unlike with Bill and Lou, they welcomed the offer of sanctuary. We were going to take two brothers, with the other three going to a private home, but now it looks like all five will come here.)
As the trailer rumbled up the driveway, the cows in the front pasture kept chomping at the hay ring. With so much work going on due to our expansion, they’ve gotten used to seeing trailers going by and didn’t suspect that this one had a cow inside. Up at the top of the hill, the new cow stepped out, confused and unhappy after a long ride. Sighting him, the cows– young and old alike —ran up the hill in their excitement to meet a new friend.
I will never, ever, forget the sight of the nine of them eagerly rushing and the energy of pure, friendly curiosity that radiated from them. The new cow stumbled toward them, regaining his equilibrium, and then took himself on a shambling survey of the pasture. Calves Cruz and Linus literally ran circles around him as he oriented himself, trailed by Nigel and other sheep. Meanwhile, that energy of excitement was still in the air. Three thousand pound Thunder galloped gleefully across the pasture, his footfalls thudding on the frozen ground. Then came numerous games of head butting, at least some of which were intended by elder Norman to teach the young newcomer his place in the herd.
The light dimmed as the sun set. I reluctantly turned away from the unfolding drama to close the coops for the night and take care of other sundown chores.
As I closed the doors to the tunnels that cleverly connect the coops to the barn, the sheep ran in, their bodies still suffused with the excitement of meeting a new friend. One after the other, they leaped, turning half-circles in the air, before running back out into the twilight.
Earlier in the day, I had worried about how the new cow would handle the emotions of coming here alone, not knowing that his brother (and maybe the rest of his family too) would follow. Kathy said she had been worried about that too, “but then I remembered Buddy.”
Buddy is well-named. Having endured unspeakable loneliness alone in a barn for years, he values relationships above all else. Whenever a newcomer is alone and scared, Buddy will go to them. Whenever anybody is sad or “on the outs” with others, Buddy will give them love and care. When young lamb Nigel appeared out of nowhere, pushed over or through the gate by an unknown person who was either rescuing or getting rid of him, Buddy became his constant companion. When cow Clover had a hard time making friends (because of her own bullying behavior, which has since abated), Buddy would groom and spend time with her. When Thunder’s brother Maxwell went up to the back pasture for a few days, because he wanted to socialize with the cows there, Buddy took up the slack, hanging out with Thunder until his brother came back.
As I left the barn last night, I saw the new cow standing off by himself. And I saw Buddy walking toward him.