Adventures in Colorado: Dinner with the Cows

Livestock on Property sign

Part of me wishes I had photos to share from my impromptu, mini, sunset hike this evening. One, so I could paint a better picture of what I’m about to describe. And two, so I could remember it more vividly myself.

The better part of me is glad I don’t. I stood quietly in the moment, gaining a full appreciation of what surrounded me. Our phones usually extract us from reality. My lack thereof ensured I was fully immersed in the experience.

Farewell to a Stranger

We gathered at Boulder Reservoir to wish farewell to Debbie, as her new journey awaits in Billings, Montana. About 20 of the fittest individuals you’ve ever seen, eating the ultimate paradox of sugar-filled muffins & carb-loaded corn chips, with two completely empty vegetable trays lying beside them.

Debbie is hardly a stranger, but we’ve only known each other for about a month. On paper, I was clearly the outsider. But at the Reservoir, I was just another one of the gang. Community: It’s what holds this world together, and it’s also a main component of CrossFit.

By now you might be wondering where the cows come in. Well, there were no cows at the farewell party, nor was dinner served. But when the group decided to head to Rayback Collective for something other than chips & muffins, I went to crash a different kind of dinner party.

There’s no doubt my body would benefit from a short, easy run. But my soul knew it’d be foolish to ignore this view.

Marshall Mesa

I’ve been here once before. It was a surprisingly warm day back in February, as I was just getting to know my new home. Back then, there were livestock signs, but no actual cow sightings.

I had nothing planned as I drove away from the Reservoir. A combination of the outside temperature, the angle of the sun, and the way it reflected off the flatirons, led me to the Marshall Mesa trailhead.

The sun was falling. Temperature dropping. The clouds, rapidly changing shape. Beautiful sunsets are a dime a dozen out here in Boulder. It’s hard to catch ’em all, but there was absolutely no reason to miss this one.

Fast or Slow

As has become somewhat of the norm out here, I found myself caught between running & stopping to enjoy the view.

There’s no doubt my body would benefit from a short, easy run. But my soul knew it’d be foolish to ignore this view. First, I stopped at an overlook about 0.3 of a mile in. Honestly, probably one of the best views of the flatirons in all of Boulder.

My curiosity of a new trail was enough to convince me to pick up the pace. Just as I did, the livestock had other ideas. I quickly found myself in the company of about two dozen cows. Hungry cows. With hundreds of acres of food in all directions.

I don’t want to say I was an uninvited guest, but I didn’t exactly feel at home. I was most certainly a visitor, but to be honest, they didn’t really seem to mind.

A Circle of Fear

I didn’t want to disturb them. They were on the trail, and I wasn’t about to walk through 4 foot high grass just to go another 0.2 of a mile. It was the universe giving me a sign that I should turn around and enjoy the last few minutes of the beautiful sunset behind me.

Ever so slowly—as cows only know how to do—they began circling me like a gang intimidating an adversary. I know they aren’t particularly aggressive (unless their calves are nearby), but they are LARGE animals. And I was outnumbered 24-to-1.

As they made their way toward me, I stood very still—somewhat scared that one of them would get mad that I disrupted their dinner, while also maintaining faith that they somehow knew I was vegetarian, and am totally on their side!

I kept one eye on the sunset. The other eye over my shoulder as a few grazed through the grass, only about 5 feet away.

I was 50% afraid, and 50% smiling. Smiling because, while I will never know exactly how a cow feels when she’s eating grass, they all seemed really happy.

You know the smile your aunt has when her 3-year-old niece shoves that piece of cake in her face, and makes an absolute mess? These cows were shoving grass in their face in much the same way, and in a very back-to-nature kind of way, it filled me with joy.

Happy Cows?

As the rollercoaster of emotions often goes, my mood abruptly shifted.

I began noticing the orange tags on their ears. One of them passed in front of me, “UO” branded in large capital letters on his back. “B96” on the butt of another.

Just as I saw these cows as happy creatures enjoying a meal together, someone else saw them as property. B96 and UO #5. Were they still being used for dairy, or would they be converted to steaks as early as tomorrow?

I’ve been experimenting with my diet over the past several months. Being vegan for several years has provided me immense perspective, not only on animals & food, but on the world at large. I’m incredibly thankful for that.

I have added eggs routinely to my diet, so I am no longer technically vegan. But I have definitely not reintroduced meat. These cows tonight, with the happiness that I witnessed UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL… they should get to enjoy their life eating, not being eaten.

From Livestock, Back to Humans

The days are really long right now, but even long, summer days must come to an end. It was almost 9 o’clock, after all. As I ran out of light, cows no longer in sight, I started the return trip back to my car.

With the cows behind me, and the sun tucked away behind the flatirons, there was nothing to focus my attention on. My mind wandered. Perhaps the universe was at it again…

  • Night time brings out the stars & the moon, both of which I know how much she loves
  • She doesn’t eat meat either, and might’ve shared many of the same thoughts about UO #5 and B96
  • I can’t help but wonder how she would’ve reacted as the cows began surrounding us (mostly, though, if she would’ve been able to remain quiet the whole time 😉
  • She was 2 hours away, presenting her thoughts to a group that is very important to her, and she might’ve even been wrapping up her talk at the same time I was finishing dinner with the cows

Whatever the reason… my mind went to her.

Who is she, you ask? She’s the girl I’ve been dating the past 4 weeks, and she’s a pretty awesome young lady. Who, let’s be fair, deserves way more than to be the final few words of a story about cows. She’ll get her own article one day. Heck, it probably needs to be a book—which, she would write way better than I ever could. You’d laugh so hard, it’d take you weeks to finish it. But I digress…

The conversations we’ve had over the past month have been unlike any I’ve had in a long time.

We go deep. We get sidetracked. Somehow we find our way back, and dig even deeper. Then we laugh over something silly. And do it all over again… before realizing it’s 5am and we just spent the past 10 hours talking to one another. What?!

Like I said, a book someday. But for now, I’d like to leave you with this final thought.

Whose land is it anyway?

↑ Get it?

Whose line is it anyway?

These cows… they were here first, way before we made this trail. Way before mountain bikes were invented. We’re visiting their land, not the other way around.

How many other things out there are we taking for granted? Are we calling “ours?” Who does it really belong to? What kind of process did it undergo before taking on its current form? And who or what was sacrificed in the process?

All fairly straightforward questions, but ones we don’t ask that much anymore. I challenge you to start asking them.

At a time when we’re becoming increasingly connected to a virtual world, we’re becoming more and more blind to the beautiful world that existed long before we ever got here. If we don’t start asking these questions now, I’m afraid our kids might not even have a chance to.