Light & Shadow #27

Cattle Drive — Moscow, ID Circa 1980

You can’t make this stuff up. I could not believe my eyes the day I came across this couple preparing to tow their cow home behind a Ford Mustang.

It’s a humorous spin on the cattle drives of 150 years ago. From the 1850s through the early 1900s, cattle drives were a significant activity in the American West. In that time, cowboys atop their horses pushed 27 million head from Texas to the rail yards in Kansas for shipment elsewhere.

As a photojournalist, I spent countless hours driving around looking for picture opportunities. This stubborn bovine was reluctant to return home, requiring its caretaker to get creative. A muscle car and rope should do the trick.

What neither of us counted on was that the cow would have none of it. Suddenly, it bolted from the roadside with head lowered — aimed at the man and innocent photographer standing nearby. Fortunately, both managed to sidestep injury. Though I no longer remember the specifics, the escapee was eventually re-incarcerated.

When I was a kid on the farm, my grandpa needed to load a reluctant cow onto a trailer. It appears there is a gene for stubbornness in the species.

We didn’t have a Mustang, but we did have a John Deere with a bucket on the front end. Grandpa tilted the bucket back and placed the smooth bottom against the cow’s butt. The harder he pushed, the more the cow braced its front legs against the force. For a while, anyway.

When it comes to cows versus horsepower, horsepower wins every time.

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