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Wendy Mnookin: In the Small Rotary

where Route 100 meets School Street,

two cows graze. I’ve heard Vermonters

lend their cows to neighbors—and to the city,

it seems—free food for cows, free mowing

for the field’s owner. But a rotary?

That hardly seems like a field to me. And

they must stop traffic, those cows, whatever

traffic there is, when they’re led in and out

of the makeshift enclosure. I picture a farmer 

trying to hurry his cows—

how do you hurry cows? With a birch switch?

Or is that for punishing kids? I seem to remember

you have to stay calm with cows. And

where is the gate, anyway? I circle several times,

searching for a break in the wire fencing, 

when my cell phone rings. I pull over

to take the call, keeping an eye on the postcard

perfect scene, dappled black and white cows,

trees budding into lacy green in the hills beyond.

It’s my mother, telling me she’s just had dinner

with Ralph Waldo Emerson. What’s he like?

I ask. Pretty narcissistic, she says. The cows

keep grazing, looking content in their

miniature field. My mother goes on—

I really couldn’t stand how he insisted

on his own opinion. So what did you do?

I say. I didn’t do anything. I left the arguing

to Thoreau. Is it worth the farmer’s time,

I wonder, to herd them here, and then

to herd them home? Thoreau was there too?

I say. Yes, of course. Emerson, and Thoreau.

The two of them kept at it, each one trying to prove

he was right, or at least prove the other one wrong.


Copyright 2016 Wendy Mnookin. From Dinner with Emerson.

Wendy Mnookin’s books include Dinner with Emerson (Tiger Bark, 2016). She lives with her husband in Newton, Massachusetts, where they raised their three children. 

One comment on “Wendy Mnookin: In the Small Rotary

  1. Barbara Huntington
    March 2, 2022

    Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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