Today was an adventure.
For those of you who do not know, I am in England. On a research trip. I’m spending a few days in the small town where the book I am writing takes place–in the month when the book I am writing takes place–and it has already been super-incredibly-valuable for a thousand and one different reasons.
The plan for today was to take a walk. My hero is in the countryside. He takes walks. So does my heroine. (In fact, they take more than one walk together.) And luckily, when I popped into the tourist information center yesterday, there was a handy-dandy guidebook describing 13 walks of varying length, all starting from the center of town. Score!
So I picked up one of them. Before I start, I have to make a confession: I do not navigate well. In fact, I have the worst anti-navigational system ever. In part, this is because I don’t know directions of any kind. In part, this is because I don’t like taking directions of any kind. And in part, it’s just sheer cussedness on my part. I wish I could explain it. My husband believes, firmly, that this is all a product of my imagination and if I would just try it would all work out. Ha ha ha ha ha.
In any event, this guidebook is lovely and wonderful, but the “directions” for the walks look like this: “Turn right between the large stones to walk down Mill Lane (not signed). On reaching the lane at the bottom turn right and walk uphill, where the road turns sharp right you take the stile on the left, cross the field to follow the hedge on your right downhill to a stile at the bottom.”
Which sounds reasonable in theory. Except telling Courtney to turn between the large stones to walk down an unsigned lane, and then to take the stile on the left where the road turns sharp right… This is not so much a good idea. Questions arise during the actual attempt. Questions such as:
“Are those stones sufficiently large?”
“Is that a sharp right turn?”
“How far am I supposed to be walking?”
The distance between some of these directions varied from 200 meters to, oh, 2 miles. Without demarcation. In any event, I got completely and utterly lost, about seven or eight times, and it was only with the help of three separate people I met on the way that I eventually managed to complete the walk. But it was all good. I had food. I had water. I can handle anything so long as I am provisioned with apples! (If I am not, I turn evil. Mr. Milan can confirm.)
In any event, once I found myself on the way again, I had these directions to follow: “Look for a signpost and some steps on the left going up the bank to a stile. Once over the stile go half left to the far corner of the field where you cross a stile next to an old gate.”
If you’re thinking this crossing field stuff is a little weird, since it’s someone’s property, don’t worry. There are signs that clearly mark the crossings as “public footpath,” and so property owners don’t get all bent out of shape if they see you.
The thing is, somebody needed to tell the cows that.
I know. I know. You are thinking, “Courtney, you are such a city girl. Cows are placid. Cows are sweet. Cows are not dangerous.” I know this. I realize this. In fact, as I started across the field–and as the cows, 20 yards away, began to amble towards me, I told myself this. I said, “Courtney, the cows are just curious. They are coming closer to have a look. Or perhaps, they are just coming this way because they are hungry. In any event, cows are not dangerous. You have nothing to worry about.”
Like I said. Somebody needs to tell the cows.
There were a lot of cows. Cows are very big. I realize that is a stupid thing to say, but one can comprehend that a cow is a massive animal, and then one can know that a cow is a massive animal. So here I am, these cows walking towards me in one giant herd, thinking to myself that cows are completely safe, even though they weigh thousands of pounds and could stampede me to death without even noticing I was there.
The cows begin to run towards me.
Now, I realize that cows are not exactly considered fast animals. Horses are fast. Cheetahs are fast. My little dog, who I miss very much, is fast. Cows? Are rather on the slow side. But so is Courtney, and besides, Courtney is sitting there saying to herself, “Don’t run, it’s a bad idea, don’t run.” I don’t actually know if that’s true for cows. It’s true for bears, though, and as you may have noticed, I am a city girl.
So, hundreds (well, tens) of cows are running towards me, and I’m thinking, “La la la, cows are safe, la la la, I am not going to run away from cows because they are completely safe, la la la.”
Then the cows start to surround me. No, really. They flank me on both sides, and they’re running to do so. There is tossing of heads. There is direct eye contact. There is lowering of heads in my direction. I don’t have a lot of experience with cows, but none of these things are sounding good for Courtney. At this point, I realize that while these fine beasts are about half cows, the other half are calves, and I start to rethink my chant of “cows are safe.” Sure, cows are safe, but aren’t all mothers supposed to be vicious? And… I had beef yesterday. They can smell it on me.
I am still not running. I am walking very, very, very quickly. Luckily, the field was not wide, or I am sure the cows would have done for me. I got to the stile on the other side and scrambled across.
Then I turned around. The cows were all staring at me. The word “bovine” usually is coupled with “placid” and “unperturbable.” Not these cows. Every single placid brown cow eye was narrowed in my direction, promising dire retribution should I return.
I stood, my heart pounding on the other side of the fence. And then I looked at the cows. They looked at me. I shook my fist at them, and said the only thing that came to mind: “Bad cows!”
They were not amused.
And then I snapped their picture. If you look closely, you can see hints of smoke, trailing from their nostrils.