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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.