By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
It always mystified me that cows would risk such agonizing pain just to stretch their necks through the barbed wire for the mere taste, sometimes smell, of a single green patch of grass, all the while standing on the greenest grass in Mississippi. Maybe it was because when I was young I didn’t fancy Play Station, I didn’t live close to other school-aged children, I certainly wasn’t the Barbie type, or possibly it was the basic fascination with any creature that covets so deeply the very same thing that they have. Hours upon hours I spent in the company of these crud-bearing creatures. Naming them, singing to them — yes, all cows love Stevie Nicks — or just observing their often odd behavior. Many life lessons were gleaned through my slightly one-sided captive creature conversations.
Straining with all their might, those cows morphed into master yoginis. Twisting, turning and often ripping their coat clear from their skin. No matter how many times I thumped them on their head, had serious conversations about the err of their ways and even tried positive reinforcement, it was always in vain. At some point one unfortunate grass gazer would get stuck frequently at 3 in the morning. Besides my little sister reaching out to all ears in the universe anytime she caught me doing something I was not supposed to do, these cows were the loudest thing within in miles. Screaming out for help to untwist the mess they clearly twisted.
Anyone who has befriended these hard-headed animals knows barbed wire to the neck isn’t enough of a deterrent, therefore it was common place to stumble out of bed and watch Daddy untangle the bewildered beast. Through the eyes of a sleepy child, cow capers were most entertaining. Ah, the joy of living in the middle of nowhere.
As I got older and spent less time explaining the laws of logic to less than charismatic cows, I couldn’t help but notice obvious similarities. Cows aren’t the only creatures willing to stick themselves in the neck while reaching for something they already have. Females are astoundingly gifted in this aspect, entirely unable to see beauty in their very own mirror, endlessly reaching out for something new to enhance. Men do the very same things, just a bit more categorical. Men have absolutely no ability to see the grass on which they stand, only the grass slightly out of reach. I am fairly certain at any given time there is a man being thumped on the head because he just can’t help but risk injury over outstretching his bounds.
Very well could be nature, or the simple fact that most mammals aren’t nearly as smart as the Discovery Channel claims.
Guilt isn’t a stranger in my pasture, either. If I was told I could only stay out until dark, perfectly impossible it proved to be. If Daddy said to only go up 10 limbs of my favorite tree, 11 was the only distance acceptable to my little lingering hands. The only swimming hole I desired to dip my dirty feet was the only one off limits. Of all the animals that surrounded my Southern summers, it was the forbidden Rooster I just had to tame. And just as often as those darn cows would squeal and squirm over the mess they made, so did I. Sometimes I had to untangle myself, and sometimes Daddy would come running.
Recently, I reached my neck out to unfamiliar pastures. A publisher painted a picture clearly of a dream that seemed tastier and worth a neck pinch or two. It required me to stop writing for The Island News. Hesitantly, I began taking direction, advice and criticism, none of which is comfortable for me. Twisting and turning, I tried desperately to crane my neck to reach a patch that just wasn’t my own. I would have to change everything I think, everything I feel, and the only voice I have would no longer be mine.
During a conference call regarding a subpar submission, she suggested that I refrain from using the word “y’all.” My big hair stood straight up on my head, my mouth flew open as it so often does and the bendable dream chaser told her preaching publisher exactly what she could do with all of her advice. After a 3 minute tirade of my recently withheld opinions, it seemed clear we were not a match made in heaven.
I quickly untangled myself and managed to pull away from the piercing barbed wire with few scratches and only a tuft of missing hair. She proudly predicted I would be nothing more than a small town writer for a small town paper.
My pasture is small, but it is green and plentiful. I will be just fine staying within my fence. After all, she didn’t like grits and she talked funny.
By Cherimie Crane Weatherford