Title: Cow #130 in a truck facing the wrong direction.
Date: 3/14/2000
Posted: 7/4/2001



I drive through Downtown Ft. Worth almost every morning of my life. I do this so I may get to work at a job I enjoy that supplies me with two very important things: a sense of accomplishment and money to consume things that I would not die if I was forced to live without. For those who may not be aware Fort Worth, though named after a military general, has been nicknamed Cowtown. As much as I may feel that this moniker is a determent to the city’s image, there are many native residents who have either a pride in the name or a general apathy about it. Seeing as I am 8 hour transient in the city, neither group could give a steaming pile of dung what I think of it. All this aside, there is quite an obvious reason that the city has been given this name. In a word…cows.

Though the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo used to be a real life blood event in the history of Ft. Worth, these days it is just an opportunity for regular Joes who would normally feel silly in loud cowboy shirts and boots (rightly so I might add) to walk around feeling like a Cattle Drive Stud of Texas in 1880. This is not to say that all the people that show up to this annual event are “drugstore cowboys” as they have come to be known, but suffice it to say that the closest most of them come to a real life cow in the normal course of their lives is when they order their steak RARE on the occasions they go to the “Texas Land & Cattle” Steakhouse. This of course provides them yet another opportunity to dress in over-the-top clothing that a Rodeo Clown would refuse to be seen in because people might think him “funny”.

So in a town known for regular appearances of cows it is not all that shocking that I might actually see one on my trip on I-35W. This particular cow sighting I am referring to happened not all that log ago. On a routine trip to merge and head west on I-30 I was caught in the normal traffic that has come to be a common part of metroplex travel. My frustration with this reality has subsided to a simmering acceptance so I don’t feel it necessary to rant and rave about it. Traffic was moving about 3 inches every 63 hours so I had a wonderful opportunity to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I was able to immediately identify the people who were going to pick their noses within the next few minutes and then try to disguise it as a deep scratch when they quickly realized the guy in the Volkswagen Jetta next to them was paying entirely too much attention, as well as those with the beginning wrinkles of profound rage that were most likely to produce automatic weaponry and anti-personnel rockets if traffic took just one minute longer than they deemed “appropriate”. The whole cast of characters was here and we were all settled in for what appeared to be another session of “waiting for the infrastructure to be suitable for current population figures.” Then I felt something looking at me.

I glanced over to my right and noticed I had the grand luck and fortune to be driving this snail’s paced journey next to Dodge Ram 37,000 -or whatever the model number that means BIG is – which was towing a trailer filled with cows. Facing the direction of my truck was the largest Brown eye I had ever seen (this included Rosie O’Donnell and every female character Walt Disney has ever produced) which seemed to follow me. When I moved up the cow tilted its head and looked. When the truck passed me by the cow shifted to look back at me. For the moment I figured staring at me was a more appealing prospect than seeing highway nose pickers and oh yeah, other cows’ asses. So there we were, on a small stretch of grid locked interstate studying each other. I can only wonder if in that moment I taught him as much as he taught me.

He – I say he because the thought of a spiritual connection with a girl cow is just plain weird and I’d never admit it – was packed into this trailer with 6 or 8 of his cow friends. I examined all the cows with short glances while keeping my eyes on the look out for anything approaching what might be considered actual movement in my lane. I noticed a few things that got me thinking about this particular cow. In addition to having a plastic tag on his ear labeling him clearly as #130 he was also facing a different direction that every other cow in the truck. While the other cows were enjoying scenic shots of the downtown area and construction, Cow #130 was forced to stare at the ugly guy in a blue Nissan for what could have been his last moments on earth. My pause in thought was enough to make pity the cow but not long enough to make me re-think my carnivorous ways.

My eventual train of thought led me far away from a cow on the Interstate and even the shifty looking guy in the shit brown Ford Fairmont that for all I knew was loading his tear gas gun. I just thought about the fact that we collectively are not all together different than this cow. I mean metaphorically. I am not suggesting that we are all carted around a metropolitan area in a steel cage with 9 other guys standing in a pile of our own waste. I think how I saw it was that we are not all in control of where we are going. We are at the mercy of some driving force that is beyond our urges and cares little about where we might want to go. We too have a number branded or attached to us. Credit Cards #, Social Security #, Address, telephone, cell phone, fax, pager, user name, password, PIN, License #, ID #, and a host of other denominators that are so much more specific than Tony or Bill.

We also might not be facing in the right direction. Be it a result of our own choice to take a window or an isle seat, or because someone with a sharp stick herded us onto the trailer, we might be facing entirely in the wrong direction as our fellow passengers or even worse, our fellow man. And who is to say that it is wrong at all. It is so very simple for that jackass in the Nissan truck ten feet away to make the call that we are “wrong” when in actuality this is the best direction for us to face or the best road for us to travel. Life has an abundance of those who think they know and a scarcity of those who admit they do not. Where the hell in the guy in Nissan heading anyway?

I sat and looked for a moment at Cow #130. I wondered where he said we were headed. I asked him with my gaze into his trailer if being a number was a necessary evil or just an evil. I told him that though my # was not so publicized it was emblazed on me just the same. I need this number to get that number so that I may be assigned that number so that I may procreate and bring about a new life in desperate need of a new #. A tyranny of digits and bits and data and dashes and dot coms.

Traffic lifted and I escaped this cow-induced moment of self...or societal as it were...pity and moved into my lane and went to my job. As I moved further along I could make out the head of Cow #130 moving around and I swore that it was looking for me. Like Steve Martin in that movie about the talking billboard, I thought the Cow had helped me and was on to the next open mind. I exited the highway and left behind me the Dodge Big 37K, the trailer, and the ominous brown eyes of a cow assigned an arbitrary number that said nothing about it as an animal or that it was a creation of a temperate cycle of creation. #130. After #129 and exactly 1 before #131.

I of course have no idea what happen to this cow just as I have no idea about what is happening to you and me. I have made no effort as a result of this epiphany to reduce my “numbers” and there is a better than average chance I have added new ones since then. I can only assume that Cow #130 was transported to a place where cows go before they are processed into everything that you can think of and that I don’t want to talk about. I do have one request of the holy spirit that governs this realm and that would be to allow this Cow some dignity in whatever its final form maybe. If it is a baseball glove, then let it be the glove that fields the acrobatic catch that flips the 6-4-3 double play to end the World Series. If he is a coat let him be worn by someone who needs warmth more than fashion. And if he is a steak please oh please, let him be ordered by a guy ordering medium-well dressed in Khakis and a polo rather than RARE by a guy dressed like a French Prostitute that got hit by a Western wear convoy.