When I came in from fishing the other day, my wife asked, "Have any luck?"
"Great," I said. "I only saw two cows and got away from both of them."
So begins outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus's classic tale, 'The Great Cow Plot." In this short story, McManus recounts his experiences of dodging cow-pies in the fields and narrowly escaping being chased by cows (especially The Bull) while attempting to fish a creek - or crick, as we like to say in rural parts.
"I've given up hope of finding any place to fish where a cow won't manage to show up and put in her oar. If I was in the pet shop on the nineteenth floor of a department store and stopped to net a guppy out of an aquarium, a cow would get off the elevator and rush over to offer advice."
It turns out that cows also fancy themselves experts on photography.
There is a lovely old barn that I pass every day on my drive to work. In the early mornings when everything is gray, and the farmer has the barn doors open, I can catch a glimpse inside into a golden world: the cows in their orderly stalls, a row of yellow lights down the middle.
I kept planning to stop; I wanted a picture looking inside that barn. So I pulled my car over and got out, and snapped a few pictures of the rustic buildings, looking - well - rustic and venerable in the morning light. I was trying to move quickly, quietly, hoping nobody would notice me trying to snap a quick shot of this lovely barn.
However, as soon as I approached the barnyard, one of the cows saw I had a camera and rushed over to offer its expertise. Oh, it was offering all kinds of advice . . . on contrast and exposure and aperture and aspect ratio; you know how bossy cows can be, thinking they know everything and need to get in the very last word when it comes to photography.
The cow in front was the most helpful one; it made sure every photo I took contained a cow-head, in addition to the much-coveted barn.
There are a few more cows to the middle right edge of the photo. By the looks on their faces, I can tell they have just noticed my camera: "What? Nobody TOLD us a photographer was coming!"
They probably have plenty to offer on the topic of photography as well. But you know what? I'm not listening!!! La-la-la-la-la!
P.S. If you enjoyed the Patrick F. McManus quotes shared here, you just might love his wonderful book A Fine and Pleasant Misery, which contains such additional classic short stories as "The Theory and Application of Old Men," "Shooting the Chick-a-nout Narrows," and "Cigars, Logging Trucks, and Know-It-Alls."
All of the stories in this book, copyright 1981, originally appeared as columns in the late 60s and throughout the 70s in the magazine Field & Stream, which my cousin subscribed to. Every month, he would come to visit my brother and me (none of us were even teenagers yet), and read the McManus stories out loud - and we would laugh and laugh until we couldn't breathe, let alone speak. :-)