Column: If you forgot how to be happy, look at cows

The last few weeks I spent a whole lot of time working cattle.

Cows and their little ones, some of which are not that little anymore, made me work out more than any Hollywood coach could. And oddly enough, besides a nice stretch of running days, these big funny mammals also gave me a good life lesson.

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After a long and cold winter in the yard, the herd was ready to go out. But it took Mother Nature a while this year to dump some rain over the southeast and nourish the soil with moisture, allowing pastures to come back to life and turn green. So we had most of the stock by our side until June.

Days and nights their hooves were trampling the dirt, carrying their big bodies around and turning the carrels into a grey desert of blowing dust. Once the rain turned ditches green, the juicy grass became a real temptation and the fence wasn't a hindrance anymore for at least one curious black cow with a white face. She turned breakfasts out on the grass into a good tradition, and docilely returned to her baby once we would open the gate every morning.

While calves were just happy to stick to their mothers, it seemed that they wouldn't mind getting out on the grass for the first time in their lives either. Their noses were often covered with dirt making them look somewhat like hounds, proudly returning from digging a fox out of its hole.  

We love our cows. But, I'd say we also were 100 per cent ready for a bit of a break from taking care of the cow community with enough offsprings to fill a decent-sized school.

Even though everybody was ready to get cows out of the yard, it wasn't a fast and easy thing to do. The procedure itself required several people, quite a bit of time, a lot of patience and tonnes of energy. With whoops and hisses in an ocean of tails, chewing mouths, big, soft flanks, hairy napes, tapping hoofs, snivelling noses, big warm eyes and alarmed shaggy ears, we had to find cow-calf pairs, bring them into a smaller pen and then get them separated for a few minutes to ensure the babies were healthy and ready to spend the summer away from home. For those short moments cows, usually calm and quiet, turned into trumpets of Jericho, trying to break not such a solid fence wall with their almighty mamas' voices.

The calves wouldn't make the transfer easy either. Kicking and bunting, these 200-pounders were trying to fight their way back to mamas. I only caught one kick, but I definitely mastered the art of ducking and jumping up the fence almost to the level of a clumsy Ninja Turtle.

And since all this excitement was happening right here, in southeast Saskatchewan, our traditional wind gently added to the joy of the adventure, as the battles accompanied by cows' acapella were happening in the dusty clouds.

When all the preparations were done, calves were loaded into one trailer and cows into another one. We could finally leave the sandy hell behind and head out to the beautiful destination.

We parked trailers side by side and opened the doors. First carefully, but more confident with every moment, cows and calves started coming out.

In the first seconds, anxious mamas went running to find their babies. But once the animals realized that nothing bad happened, they noticed how green it was around and all of a sudden they changed completely.

Have you ever seen cows dance? That's what happened.

Cows and calves started running and jumping, throwing back legs up and tilting their heads towards the grass as if they wanted to put a notch of freshness on themselves. They weren't so much eating as sniffing and celebrating. And I could have sworn that I saw a bunch of smiles flashing on their faces as they were doing their welcoming summer dance.

That was the moment when I also realized that true happiness comes from small and simple things, which are also very real and which we need the most. In a chase for some big achievements or endless things, we don't really need, we too often forget about being happy and celebrating life around us, being grateful for changing seasons, fresh air, food and water, blue skies and solid ground under our feet.

We rush through life so much, planning for tomorrow, for the weekend, next vacation, kids' college, retirement, that we forget to find satisfaction in the moment that we have right here, right now. 

There, out in the pasture, smiling while watching dancing cows, I once again learned that happiness pivots on living in the current moment rather than aiming at some future achievements.

The future isn't guaranteed. The current moment is all we have to be happy. And the best way to do so is to express gratitude for everything we have now. And that's exactly what those cows did.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury


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