Monday, May 1, 2017


Waxing Crescent Moon

I am now part cow.

On Thursday morning I was given an anesthetic and was operated on to install a dental implant in tooth position #3, where one of my upper molars had been removed two years ago. The bone in that part of my head had deteriorated a little bit. It was in need of restoration in order to hold the implanted post. So my superstar periodontist first jammed a little cow bone up there to do the trick. Then he screwed in the post and his assistants mopped up the blood and gore (I guess).

The next thing I knew I heard a voice inside my head. It was the doc saying we're all done now, Jim, we're going to raise you back upright now and then boink, I was awake. I didn't feel anything. No pain or discomfort. No disorientation. I was not swollen or discolored. I was simply back from wherever that awesome dope had sent me. I've been a little woozy and sleepy for the past few days, but mostly I'm a-okay.

I do, however, feel a little odd knowing that I am now part cow. You see, for about the past twenty-some years I have harbored negative feelings about cows. So negative that whenever I am walking or bicycling along a country road where cows are grazing, I yell horrible things at them. Things much too horrible to repeat here. I will spare you that indignation. But I will say that it is ironic or karmic or cosmically coincidental (dental!) that cow bone is now in my head.

By way of explanation, here is a little history from my Pacific Crest Trail journal.

Yelling at Cows

I once returned from a day hike near Bird Spring Pass to witness a cow standing on its hind legs with its front hooves planted squarely on the front of my truck, licking something that apparently tasted very good from the center of the truck's hood. Or maybe it was in love, I don't know which. I started yelling at cows that day and I have been yelling at them ever since.

April, 2001

One of my favorite mini-hikes on the PCT is the short northbound walk between Barrel Spring and the town of Warner Springs. Maybe you're relieved that you made it unscathed over the San Felipe Hills or maybe you know you're close to some R&R at the Warner Springs Ranch or maybe it's the presence of surface water in San Isidro Creek, or maybe it's just because the hike is easy and grassy and relaxing. Whatever. I like my experience of it. So instead of grinding the miles out at the end of an exhausting day, I walked part of the way, camped in a pasture, and saved the rest of it for morning. I slept like the proverbial log.

Proverbial log sleep is the best medicine in the world. I awoke famished but refreshed and jazzed for walking to town. I was snacking my way along the creek imagining the menu at the grill and wondering if I could actually eat every single thing on it when I came up behind a huge black cow grazing on tall green grass along a barb wire fence. There were lots of cows and calves on the other side of the fence. It seemed fairly obvious that this one had run way from home.

"You're on the wrong side of the fence, you big dummy!" I yelled. This communique had no effect. As with children, with cows it is sometimes helpful to present a selection of options for them to choose an appropriate action.

"You're right in the middle of the trail! So what are you gonna do? Are you gonna stand there and make me go around you or are you gonna move? What's it gonna be?"

The cow swung its head toward me, revealing a hairy gob of grass protruding from its lips as it chewed on the rest of a recent bite. Then it pooped. Then it urinated on its poop. All the while staring at me and chewing. Infuriating.

"Yaaaah!" I yelled. "No pooping on the PCT!" I think it was the yaaah that did it, not the leave-no-trace pooping restrictions. The yaaah seemed to bungle around through the concentric fat folds in the cow's head until it eventually bumped up against a pecan-sized brain.

It trotted seven steps and stopped. Great. I stepped around the poop.

"Yaaah, you freakin' idiot! Yaaah!" It trotted seven more steps and stopped. Terrific. More yelling ensued.

This annoying process repeated itself for about ten frustrating minutes until suddenly, without warning, the huge black cow made a big decision. It turned around so it was facing toward me and then it stared at the fence for a while, no longer chewing.

I took this as my cue to pass and I jammed around it, cutting through the knee-high grass just off the trail, staying a hiking pole's length away. Just as I returned to the trail, the cow decided to do a little yelling of its own.

"Nuh-ooooo!" it cried. "Nuh-ooooo! Nuh-ooooo! Nuh-ooooo!"

You may not know this, but real cows never say "moo." Real cows reach way back in the back of the backy back back of the seventh sack of their seventh stomach to squeeze out sound and it ain't no measly "moo" that comes out, brothers and sisters. It's a gusty, gut-hard "Nuh-ooooo!"

In an instant, from the other side of the barb wire fence, came a chorus of supportive replies, "Nuh-ooooo! Nuh-ooooo! Nuh-ooooo!" Soon the whole countryside was nuh-oooooing! I halted in my tracks and turned to face the cacophony.

"I've got nuh-ooooos for you, moo-rons! I can nuh-ooooo, too!" And with that, I reached way back in the back of the backy back back of my single-sack, skinny-scrawny hiker trash stomach and pumped out the biggest, baddest "nuh-ooooo!" of them all! It silenced the herd and rumbled through the pasture like the roar of a jet ski engine. All their heads were facing me, staring stares that only cows can stare.

"That's right, cows!" I yelled. "I'm nuh-oooooing at YOU!"

Peace, Love, and a Nuh-ooooo Tooth,

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