Do Cows Cry?
When we first discovered Waimea we reveled at the cows calling to each other on Buster Brown Hill. Neither my wife nor I grew up around farms. We are both “city folk.” For example, we are awed by the beauty and majesty of the horses at Parker Ranch. We know they will come around to the fence line at sunset where we can watch them, pet them, and relax in the presence of a grand creature so powerful and iconic of the Southwest U.S. where we both invested our formative years. We have walked the fence line many times at sunset and will many more times.
Leise grew up with dogs. I grew up with a menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and alligator lizards (Hefty the Hero & Lizzy the Lizard, lol). But neither of us grew up with farm or ranch animals. So when we go to Waimea Coffee Co., which looks up to Buster Brown Hill, we love listening to the cows mooing to each other. When we first landed on the island everyone I talked to told me that there was great hiking up there. So, this week I went for a hike up there. I arrived at the gate. I read the warning sign which stated that the cows are there with their calves and do not disturb them, “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” But everyone said there is great hiking… You can guess what I did.
As I walked through the cows’ land I was respectful. When I saw where the cows were hanging out, I hiked off the path up the hill and away from them. As I came over the top of the hill, around a knoll and back on a different path, and over another gate, I came across a bunch of cows on both sides of the path. Recognizing this is their land, their home, I respectfully stopped and asked them aloud for their permission to pass through. I explained to them that I meant them no harm. I was simply desiring to hike through and asking would they kindly step aside to allow me to pass. I acknowledged the fact that they are many times my weight and size and I would not fight them in any way. I apologized that I did not know the proper oli (Hawaiian chant) to ask permission to pass through their land.
They looked at me… They looked at the grass they had just been grazing upon…. I realized I was interrupting their lunch (sorry). They swung their massive heads around again to look at me… They looked around the field…. I could see them thinking about whether they really wanted to move or not. This continued for about 2-3 minutes with me patiently waiting and being ready to respectfully turn around and end my hike early if they didn’t want me to enter their dominion. They decided I was no threat and slowly lumbered away from the path with their calves in tow.
Further up the hill I came across “The 4 Cows of the Apocalypse.” There they stood, 4 abreast, looking at me, staring at me, glaring at me. Again I stopped and repeated my dialogue, asking for permission to pass. They decided to play the waiting game…. After about 10 minutes of calling to their friends down the hill and mooing at me they finally decided to move off the path. Just when I thought I was in the clear and they would trot down the field yielding to the quiet solitary non-threatening hiker, 1 of them stopped, turned and looked directly at me. Then in a confrontational gesture it took 2 determined steps towards me. There were 2 larger cows flanking the first. They started mooing directly at me!!! Not to me, but at me!!! I noticed that a couple of the cows which had moved earlier had now circled around in back of me. If these crazy cows decided to rush me I would be screwed (do cows ever stampede people to protect their calves?). Message sent. Message received. While looking into the eyes of the crazed cows blocking the path in front of me, wondering how fast they really can move, I backed away. I recognized the cows which had circled around behind me were probably not going to start any trouble, because they had already yielded to me once. They were the nice peace loving cows.
As I was recounting this story to a friend, he shared some information with me. He said the hill where the cows are each week and where we affectionately listen to them talk to each other, is the last place the cows are before they are separated from their calves which are then shipped to the Mainland U.S. The cows can be very protective and the warnings are posted, because the cows know they are in the last place they will ever see their young. Imagine every time you drive to one particular part of town you know your children will be taken away from you… never to be seen again. If I was them I would resent some human, who represents those who steal our children, coming into the last place I will see my baby.
Upon hearing this I recognized that the cows were not joyously calling to each other and laughing and jumping about on the hill. They were crying out in pain… The pain of knowing the inevitable loss of a child and feeling totally and completely helpless.
As I sit now, recounting and writing of the hike, I relax and warm my sprits with a wonderful french press of great coffee at Waimea Coffee Company. From here, where you can often find me, there is a good view of Buster Brown Hill. There are no cows up there today, crying or otherwise. I have decided that this is a good day of the week to go hiking up there in the future. I shall yield to the cows and we shall both enjoy the fields of the hills, but at different times.
Aloha, James Christopher