Safari to the wilds of the back pasture

TO my knowledge there are very few Holstein cows in our national parks. Which is a pity because Lawrence has been practicing his techniques on them. Lawrence is a photographer. We have an assignment in the National Parks this spring and he has been reading all the books he can find on wildlife photography. Feeling he needed some actual practice and finding the neighbor's cat uncooperative, he headed for the near-est farmland on a bovine safari. He got some dandy pictures too but came home disappointed.

The disappointment started when he built a blind according to the book's instructions. The cows thought the blind was a great success. They immediately trotted over to it and peeked in. Lawrence realized that the brand new zoom lens he was so eager to use was not going to be necessary.

I could have told him that cows were curious. I read in the paper once where a man escaped from prison and hid in a field. The searching helicopter spotted a circle of cows peering down at something and knew they had found their man.

Besides being curious, cows are easily amused. One of the rules of wildlife photography is to approach an animal slowly in a zig-zag fashion, crouching slightly. This is supposed to keep the animal from being startled.

Targeting a cow, Lawrence tried this approach. The cow was not startled. In fact, she found his antics so amusing that she ambled around back and brought the rest of the cows out to see. They all sat down in the grass for a bit of cud chewing while they watched Lawrence. He said he felt, well, cowed.

I can't help but be glad that he's feeling slightly intimidated. Writers and photographers travel and work closely together. Lawrence and I have an ideological clash that has me worried. My personal philosophy in regard to wild-life is never to go within a mile of a bear unless it's a rug.

Lawrence, though, has the idea that every bear has a secret desire to be in pictures. And when Lawrence gets an idea about photography, he sticks to it. I've seen him sit in the cold for hours waiting for the light to be just right so that he could take a picture. Of a rock. One assumes that his devotion to getting the perfect picture will increase if the rock is a moose.

I'm counting on a few more afternoons in the cow pasture to dim his enthusiasm.

Besides, he's probably learning more from the cows than he realizes. My guess is that out in the backwoods, like out in the back pasture, book learning often goes awry and events can take an unexpected turn.

It makes one wonder if the animals expect us. With all the people about to descend on the National Parks for the summer season, perhaps it's the wild-life, not the photographers, who should be making these elaborate preparations. We will be leaving before the official season opens but I have a feeling that it's always open season on writers and photographers. So it will be with some trepidation that I will say goodbye to the cows.

Not that it's time for goodbyes yet. The cows are still busy playing with Lawrence. Whenever I pass, they give me a conspiratorial grin.

Or maybe they're just saying cheese.

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