Tuesday, September 13, 2011


 "You're beautiful, like a May fly."
~ Ernest Hemingway

Many years ago now, on a late summer Iowa evening, I found myself walking through an unfamiliar pasture. It was actually right about this time of year, come to think of it – right about September. The grass was tall and dry, and the cottonwoods were starting to yellow and look like aged book pages. I was there in this pasture, trying to find my cow.  The farmer whose field it was walked with me, amused. An early spring attempt at artificial insemination hadn’t taken -- the next month, she cycled. And so this farmer had offered to pasture her for the rest of the summer with his herd -- which included a bull. Lovely, I thought. I had raised her from a bottle calf, and this would be good for her, to be in with a herd and learn to be a cow. Because as it stood, she thought she was a human, or a dog of some sort. While I was a good mother to her, I could never be one of her own kind. So I figured she’d have fun -- “Like summer camp” as my mom described it. Although, I know of no other summer camp where the end goal is impregnation.

In the last month of her stay, I called up the farmer, Chad Henderson, to see if I could come see Angel. Just to check in. It’s a big pasture, he warned. And I knew that, but assured him that she comes when she’s called. At this point, he laughed -- silly girl -- but said that yes, yes he’d go out there with me to see about Angel. I think he just wanted to see if she really would come when I called her. 

Chad lived in a big white clapboard farmhouse -- alone -- and was in want of a wife. Jane Austen’s truism about men in possession of good fortunes could also be applied to men in possession of working farms, I'd think.

And so that late summer evening, we walked, and I yelled out "Angel" periodically. He was right. The pasture was big. But we kept on walking, and I kept on calling. In between my bellowing he slipped in, like a paper -- like a secret note under a door...

“I offended a woman yesterday.”

“You did?” I couldn't imagine this soft spoken man offending anyone at all.

“Yes...I did.....I commented on her eyes. They are beautiful. But yeah, I love cows….you understand."

I nodded. I did.

“And so I told her that she had eyes like a cow’s.”

“Oh...she didn’t take that as a compliment, did she….”

He shook his head, looking down, “I don’t think she wants to see me again.”

“But cows have the most beautiful, soft, watery eyes. I know exactly what you mean...gosh, I’d fall in love if a man ever told me I had eyes like a cow's.” 

“Someday, somebody will. Don’t you worry. I’d tell you right now, but I shouldn't.” 

Flustered, I realized that I hadn’t called for Angel in awhile, and thus decided to do so right then…and called again...and again...and then finally, I heard a moo back. It wasn’t just any moo, mind you, I knew this one. I loved this one. And over a knoll, my Angel came running. I think Chad was scared she was charging, and stepped aside. But she ran right up to me, and put her big wet nose on my shoulder, licking my curls into frizz with her sandpaper tongue like she always did. 

Chad smiled, “You were right…she did come,” as he adjusted his baseball cap like men do, with almost a nervous twitch. “And you know what… she has beautiful eyes.....”

And now I sit here and wonder if Mr. Hemingway’s woman understood him and mayflies, and if she understood that being beautiful like a mayfly is a compliment.....just like having beautiful eyes, like a cow.


  1. Beauty is in the cow eyes of the beholder. A delightful post.

  2. I kept fish as a kid. They knew who fed them and they loved me for it. Later on in life I commented to my girlfriend she had lips like a carp...I'm single now.

  3. Thank you, Mike...it is, and thank god for that!

    John - I cannot stop laughing. Bellyache laughing. Because really, that's the ultimate of compliments....carp have Angeline Jolie lips, don't they!?

  4. I miss the cows and their eyes...Charlie, Angel, Norman, Curly, Moe, Larry,Sampson, and Lucy...all had to die for lashes ;-)


  5. For anyone interested.... pictures of Angel have been posted on Erin's wall. bb

  6. sgb - I miss cows so much....and they totally could have been Maybelline mascara models or something, eh? ;)

    bb - Thanks...gosh I miss cattle...good thing I don't have land enough for them...

  7. Nice. I once told a woman her skin was as beautiful as a trout. No, she didn't get it...

  8. Cow eyes kinda freak me out a little, or maybe it's how they look at me. I can understand where he's coming from though. ...and also Hemingway. Great quote and story!

  9. Arrrggghhhh cows, cows have stopped me fishing many a good piece of river, i hate them.

    Mind you, they do not like me either!

    Lips like a carp, blimey if i told the wife that i would be picking myself up of off the floor LOL

    Nice one Erin

  10. You made me tear up -- a new favorite post! Take that! ;)

  11. I love cows, I always talk to them as I pass and sometimes stand long enough for them to approach and yes, they have beautiful eyes.

    Brilliant post Erin.

  12. Your farmer friend surely read his classics - for Homer often referred to the goddess Hera as cow-eyed, which passed for a compliment in times of ancient Greece :)

  13. I really enjoyed this post.

    "The grass was tall and dry, and the cottonwoods were starting to yellow and look like aged book pages." Awesome Description

    "Although, I know of no other summer camp where the end goal is impregnation." That would be the playboy mansion.

    My grandfather raised a calf before. I got to feed it from a bottle too. It was amazing how strong it was, almost ripped the bottle out of my hands. He had to put it in the pasture too and as the cow got older it actually became a little dangerous. It would try to rub up against him like a dog and many times it stepped on his foot or almost pinned him against the fence. He eventually had to pet the cow from the other side of the fence for his own safety.

  14. Jim - ha! :-)

    backcountryfishnerd - ah, you just haven't become one with the cow yet. ;) Yeah, the Hemingway quote totally got me to thinking...thanks!

    Tom - Well, if the ill-wills are mutual, then all is well, eh? And yeah, please don't try out any of these "compliments" on your wife! ;) Cheers!

    Val - I will take it! Thanks ;)

    Dave - I love them too, and miss having them almost more than horses, which is saying something! Their chewing of cud is most pleasing and always brought me contentment.

    Jindra - And I thought I had read my classics...I did not know that about Hera. Thanks!

    Kev - Thanks. And somehow I hadn't thought of the playboy mansion...good point! Yes, bottle calves, or any large animal hand raised, can get dangerous when they think they are what raised them. "Summer camp" helps with that. ;)

  15. Angeline Jolie has lips like a carp! I will admit...I have considered kissing a carp before. But now I would be visualizing her...and would not be able to do it. How does Brad stomach it?

    Beautiful piece of writing, Erin. The descriptions and dialog are perfect.

    I once told a woman she had eyes like something I saw on the cover of Nation Geographic. Wow. Not the best worded complement! (But, in my defense...I was referring to Steve McCurry's now famous "Afghan Girl" June 1985 cover shot.)

    I hope that woman understood.

  16. I think using animal references in compliments is very dangerous. There are to many negitive animal references used in our language, Sly as a fox, Ugly Duckling, Mean as a junkyard Dog, fat cat,Snake in the grass, etc. Fruit and veggies is a much better reference, Pretty as a peach, Cherry!,cool as a cucumber. Maybe I'm just over thinking it. Lovely post, Sweet as Molasses!

  17. Kevin -- Sweet as Molasses...I love molasses! And you're probably right about fruit/veggies over animals. Although even then, someone could have had a very bad experience with a peach, say....or some such thing...

  18. FWE-Kevin,
    True, but I also know an Australian woman who refers to Brits as pomegranates.

  19. Also...I once told same woman I would treat her as though she were a gut pile.

    Come on, people! Protect her like a bear on a gut pile! It was supposed to be, like, romantic and stuff...

  20. Sounds romantic to me! - ByW

  21. (To Kevin) I never thought "sly as a fox" or "mean as a junkyard dog" were negative statements about someone. Always have taken them as high praise!

    (To e.m.b) You are too right. Peaches fall off the tree too early and are often rotten. Besides, they have always reminded be of soft, short men who could never really grow a beard (just fuzz) and can be easily crushed. Even with my left hand.

    (To Jay Z) Remember bears love molasses, too!

  22. In a way, it's typical of Hemingway....another writer might have found a way to use ephemeral, part of the latin word for mayfly, in describing the subject's beauty. Hemingway said something to the effect of "I know the big words, I just feel the simple words are better."

  23. Should Fish More - Well put! And "Ephemeroptera" doesn't even have a chance of sounding romantic, does it...

  24. Jay Z
    LMAO! No really I can't see through the tears to type. Good Stuff I'll have to try that one!

    I don't get the Brits/Pomegranates thing. But then I never cooked on a Barbie doll or a Ken for that matter???

    There is that Peach Pit thing... but if life gives you lemons.....
    I do think a cows eyes are pretty but is there anything cuter than a baby pig???

  25. FWE Kevin - I do like lemonade...is that a forecast of a hard life, I wonder? And while baby pigs are admittedly cute, baby cows are cuter. Sorry, I'm stuck on the cow thing today. ;)

  26. Though I never paided much attention to eyes specifically, the way cattle stare at us is interesting. In my mind they know their fate, and are standing there waiting for you to get it over with.

    "So this is it?"
    "Yep I think so."
    "Well, do it already."

  27. Clif - yeah we aren't fooling them...they know what's up!

  28. My compliments on another great story.You "slip" in some really sweet lines, so subtly.It's like, "Wow!,that was nice!". I'm a Hemingway fan, but,who knows? Right?.Thanks again.

  29. Herringbone - Right! And it's always a pleasure to have you stop by. Thanks!