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That Was Then, This Is Cow!
By Vincent Yanez
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Adventures in Cheese...or Cheese Makers in the Canary Islands
My friend and I somehow ended up on the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, with time on our hands and cheese in our hearts.
We had only one more week left on our three week, Canary Island, vacation. Up to this point, we had spent much of our time drinking coffee at various beachside resorts within a half-mile radius of our room. Our mornings consisted of wandering the beaches, in search of pirate gold and washed up ship parts. We would wander the stalls and markets strewn throughout the neighborhoods looking for trinkets to drag home. Jesse would then head home to nap or read, and I would wander the lady-swimmer-strewn beaches, trying to figure out (more than once) 'how can much woman could fit into so little bikini?' (a purely scientific-based observation, of course).
It being our last week, we decided to get out of our routine and explore the island a bit. We opted for a road trip. We were titillated not only by the excitement of renting a vehicle and heading out into the great unknown, but also by the fact that we knew nothing about the language, nor the people, nor car mechanics. It sounded like a Grand Idea.
The first leg of our trip was mildly amusing, somewhat uneventful and brought us both a little closer to God. We had three episodes of almost plummeting off a mountainside as we tried to avoid the local buses careening down the road at top speeds. Someone must have told them that their brakes were located on their steering wheels. Each time they reached a hairpin corner, they would turn with one hand and hold their horn down with the other, their speed remaining constant throughout. It was a crazy mixture of fast moving metal, no guardrails and a road the width of a Band-Aid.
We had rented an All-Terrain Vehicle, but not in the hopes of doing any real 'Vehicling' (my word) over any (much less ALL) types of terrain. We did not plan our wanderings to take us over any portion of the outside world other than that which was paved, shellacked or veneered for our protection. The closest I had been to 'nature' over the last three weeks was when forced to peel my own banana. Recent memory sadly reminded me that my contact with wildlife tended to hover around encounters with a stray cat, a feeble-minded grasshopper and a brief interlude with a neighbor's car that had a squeaky fan belt.
The reasons we rented an 'All-Terrain Vehicle' was that I wanted to be able to look into other people's cars as we passed them by (this was apparently something that excited only me). We also wanted to ensure that we would stand a better chance of surviving any unfortunate auto collisions with other All-Terrain Vehicles. Most importantly, we liked knowing we would have a place to lie down, should we find ourselves lost, broken, evicted or just feeling a little bit carsick.
The next morning we found ourselves aimlessly barreling down paved roads, whipping by Spanish-looking towns and for the most part, pointing, gasping and swerving our way throughout the rest of the afternoon. Suddenly, to our amusement, we found ourselves in a farmland area that looked like an over-advertised commune for cows. As a milk and cheese lover, I was very excited. Oddly enough, so many thousands of cows caused the air to smell a lot like cowshit, go figure.
Jesse was happy to be amongst our grazing friends, but as a lover of the cheese, I was mildly disappointed at the marketing opportunities the local merchants chose not to embrace. I think, perhaps, a chance to drive through acres of cows and then stumbling upon a quaint, roadside stand offering me a tasty sample of their delectable cheese creations would have sufficed. Or maybe like a Winery, but with a cellar full of cheese samples and an over-priced crate of their best year to take home and share with the neighbors.
To me, cheese is like a vegetable, but without all the hassles of having to peel, boil, shred or shuck. Cheese makes everything better. I like to have cheese put on my cheese - it is just that good.
Many cows later, I decided that perhaps we should pull over and pay our respects. It was time to thank the bovines of Gran Canaria for the joy they bring to my palate.
We eased our 'All-Terrain Vehicle' to the side of a deserted roadway. To our right was a cluster of cows. A bevy of cheese-makers, rather close to the highway, but still far enough back to portray a sense of mystery and aloofness.
I neared the small wire fence and made the expected moo-ing sounds. I wanted to let them know that I was not only their friend, but also wanted to set the groundwork for any future communications.
Eventually I felt that the wire fence separating me from these cows was not only a physical barrier, but also a spiritual one. Since there was not a person, car or farmhouse within eyeshot, I speedily hopped over the fence and headed toward my newfound friends.
I spread my arms wide to add an appearance of girth and to show I was not carrying any weaponry. I mooed, paused, took a step then mooed again. The thirty or so cows watched me carefully. Some with interest, some with pity, two chewing something and one suffering from some kind of disgusting saliva issue.
Finally a cream-colored cow rose and stared in my direction. I gave it an especially loud moo. It answered with an exhaling of air through its nostrils. I felt that this was a huge leap forward for us.
Suddenly another cow stood, then another and finally all but two were standing, somewhat in a row, facing in my direction. I mooed and they stared. I waved my arms and two of them fled. The rest were as still as statues, watching me, wondering what I would do next.
Then, the cream-colored one took a half step in my direction. She again exhaled through her nostrils and even gave the ground in front of her a little scrape with her foot. I was exhilarated. I felt like Jane Goodall, but with cows instead of monkeys, and without the dread of having to sleep in bamboo hut for the next 27 years.
Then, from somewhere behind me, I heard Jesse say in a very soft voice.
"Did you notice they don't have any udders?"
I will admit I had not, as of yet, looked at their underneath areas (but this was more out of a sense of respect than anything else). I glanced at the bottom side of the cream one and noticed that there did appear to be an absence of udder-like protrusions. In their stead, what I did see was what a bad Romance writer would refer to as a 'Sturdy Manhood Part.'
I somehow got out the words "Bulls!" and "Oh Shit!" in the same breath. I laughed nervously, made a couple of courteous Japanese-styled bows in their general direction and proceeded to put as much distance between thirty bulls and myself as possible.
Over the fence and into the 'All-Terrain Vehicle', I shouted, 'DRIVE!"
Our road trip was soon over as we limped back to our temporary, beachfront home. It did take a couple of weeks before I could eat cheese comfortably, and even longer before I could get up the nerve to moo at cows on the side of the road, but eventually, it has all worked out.
The one thing I did learn though (a lesson that would work well with both humans and animals), is that one should always check to see what is down below, before making any sort of emotional commitments.
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|Reviewed by Kenneth Seay
|Hmmmm. Well travel/vacation stories are good. But I won't udder a word!|