Because I spent summer days in Kansas being chased by cows on the journey across Hobson’s Pasture to Hobson’s Pond, cows occasionally end up in my writings. They frequently offered scathing commentary about my running abilities that elicited much mirth in the herd; they loved tormenting me. I once showed a cow my 7th grade English paper and it mocked me, called me juvenile then ate my homework.
“Hey, Myrtle,” Agnes the Angus would shout across the pasture, “Here comes that McNary kid again. I’ll chase him your way for a bit then we’ll circle back and pin him in the corner. I’ll bet you two cow-pies to a bale of hay that he wets himself again. The last time he did I laughed so hard my milk turned into cottage cheese in the udder.”
The only cows I like are the ones I eat.
My wife and I recently toured the Bridges of Madison County, a place made famous by a book and subsequent movie of the same title. We bounced sideways down washboard gravel roads in a Pig Pen-like dust cloud. Passing by a herd of cows that looked at me suspiciously, I told my wife I was going to write a book about The Cows of Madison County.
She asked me why. I told her because the bridges got all the attention while the cows just stood in the fields looking stupid. The real story, I tried to convince her, was with the cows. She asked what kind of cow I would chose to play Meryl Streep or Clint Eastwood. She then asked if I’d tried out too many wine samples at the Madison County Winery.
She had a good point; cows aren’t particularly romantic. I’ve seen them in action and there’s not much foreplay. There is a perfectly legitimate reason why you won’t find a bovine romance genre at Barnes and Noble; like teenagers in the backseat of a car, it would be over in two sentences.
However, I’ve just written 347 words about the Cows of Madison County and proved to myself- and to my wife- that a writer will write about anything. I jokingly said, “I’m going to write about The Cows of Madison County,” then sat down at my computer and challenged myself.
While this brief essay probably won’t change the world or win me a Pulitzer for short stories, it has been an exercise in finding a bizarre topic and writing about it. I have no moral to the story, no great moment of epiphany where a cow whispered, “Phone home,” or a funny joke about the time the cow walked into a bar. Furthermore, I doubt my wife will read it then smother me with kisses.
However, it has been an exercise about writing. If you want to write, pick an absurd topic and write about it; even The Cows of Madison County.
Just don’t let the cows read it.