Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lessons from the Cow Path

Grass is tall right now in Indiana. The Greens Fork River is finally behaving and got back to it’s banks; the sun is shining and everything is growing quicker than a mower can keep up. The grass is green and tall and beautiful. 
And itchy. Thank goodness for cow paths, I’d never get anywhere.

Do you know where cow paths come from? A cow path is formed when a cow finds a desirable destination and continuously takes exact same route to get there; eventually others catch on to this trend, find the path and follow. Through constant wear from multiple steps, a trail is formed. And just like that, in the middle of the tallest grass or most thistle-filled lot, there is a clear, laid out walkway to the destination. 

That’s the thing about cow paths: They always lead somewhere with a purpose. They don’t just span pastures and get the cow from one end of an acreage to another. They provide an easier route to the water tank, feeder or the gate.

I suppose these paths are similar to the paths we take in life. Always a clear starting point, potentially a bit winding, always through hills and flatlands, covered in dust or water or fallen tree limbs. 

They represent the journey we’re on from start to finish. They also mirror the way some folks live this life; on the beaten path, doing what every one else has done. Doing what is easy. 

I have a cousin just young enough to still see cow paths through a child’s soul. 

Because of a tall tale my Momma told that little beauty a few years ago, Kinzee Jean believes cow paths are actually indian trails, paved by the Native Americans that still roam the pastures of BSG. Kinzee is always so careful to stay on the path and look for clues as to where these never-been-seen indians actually live. The excitement and curiosity that dances in her eyes as she walks the narrow trail is something I wish I could bottle and keep forever. I can’t help but wonder, what mystery lies ahead on her own cow path?
While the sun went down, I spent last evening trying to capture a photo of one of our momma cows. In my quest to capture the Indiana sunset holding tight to the silhouette of one of our gals, I found myself right in the middle of a life lesson. 
I set out across the tall grass. As I usually do, I was wearing cut off shorts and quickly regretted that decision; within a minute of my trek my legs were itching and covered in seeds. But, about that time the regret set in, I found a cow path.

I was able to easily jump on that tried and true trail to walk a great distance with out a single bother of tall grass or weeds. It was convenient. It was easy. And it worked. 
Until I got just far enough to realize that I wasn’t going to get the best light, behind the most distinct silhouette, by staying on that path. 

Where I wanted to be was right on that beaten path where my legs could avoid any thistles. 
Where I needed to be was thirty yards west, across the ravine. 
I looked at that setting sun and I looked across the way; I either choose now to stay the easy path and get a sunset shot, but not the one that would make me happy, or choose to take the road less traveled, through the not-so-fun stuff, go out on a limb and get the shot I had originally set out to find. 
Sorry legs, in all faucets of my life I’m pretty serious about getting to where I know I need to be. 
I learned a lesson as the orange sky turned dark and crickets started talking. 
It’s alright to not follow that cow path others may have followed for years. 
Think off the beaten path. 
Make your own way and consider the new opportunity that awaits in making a trail of your own. 

It's true: Some of life’s best moments are captured twenty yards off the beaten cow path, where you run into the thistles and frogs. 


  1. Awesome post, Jean! Love the last pict.

    Cow Trail, Cow Trail so long and dusty,
    Busy in the Summer; not in the Winter,
    If you walk far enough what shall you find?
    A water tank or like the Rainbow a pot of gold.

  2. Great pictures. And love the story. Jim and I would check on the cows when we were dating. Kill two birds with one stone