Hardly a day goes by but when I walk beyond Laundress Green I see cows. And that is a lot to do with why I walk that way. I am ready to photograph them because they are alive and interesting and make nice graphic shapes with the contrasting colours in their bodies.
I think even without lockdown I would wander that way. But with lockdown there isn’t an awful lot going on – and cows munching without a COVID care in the world takes my mind off things.
I see they have their own version of oppression, needing to keep on eating. Munch, munch all the time. Their bodies are built with their necks and heads near the ground. They can hardly lift their heads much above horizontal without an effort.
Do they see it that way? Do they think about it? Do they lament that their noses are deep in the grass filling their vision? Or are they content with their lot?
Yesterday, maybe it was the air, or the temperature, or the breeze carrying away the noise of traffic in the distance – who knows – but when the cows were close by me I could hear so clearly that lovely crisp tearing sound as they ate grass.
And the sound brought to mind the reason or one of the reasons for the wars between cattle ranchers and sheep farmers in the American West. It’s entirely possible that some character spelled it out in one of the many Westerns I saw on TV as a boy. But if they did, I didn’t hear it.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned the reason for the enmity, and it’s down to this. Cows twist and pull and sheep nibble.
Sheep have a lower set of teeth, and no teeth in the top jaw. Instead they have a hard upper palate. They eat grass by cutting it. Their bottom teeth snip off the grass against the anvil of their upper palate. And they can cut the grass very short.
Cows wrap their tongues around the grass and pull. The grass doesn’t have to be very long, but it has to be longer than the length left by sheep after eating. Hence the cattle versus sheep wars in the American West.
Curly hair and straight hair. They are not all the same.