The day promised a leisurely drive from Jackson, Wyoming, to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was just what I needed. I was about two weeks into my 2016 Nature Trek Vacation and had spent three tiring glorious but long (12+ hour) days exploring Yellowstone National Park. A simple five-hour drive sounded like a perfect plan.
My GPS routed me away from major highways, sending me along various state roads. Although the roads were one-lane each way as they wandered through open country and farmland communities, they were well maintained major state highways, typically posted at 65 or 70 mph speed limits. Speed limits did reduce as cars passed through small towns—one little hamlet had a sign boasting a total population of only 169. (When I was teaching full time, my total student load for a semester would often reach that number.)
Other cars were on the road, forming small ques waiting for the stop lights in various little towns. But for the most part, it seemed as if I had the road to myself. I enjoyed seeing the cows and horses along the way as well as field after field of dandelions. (How can anyone call these cheerful blossoms weeds?) Since the area was technically “open range,” there were also occasional warning signs along the road as well. Having been on the lookout for bison wandering the roads in Yellowstone for several days, keeping an eye out for an errant cow or two did not seem a major challenge.
Then I caught sight of something alongside the road when I was traveling on state road Utah-16. What I saw was dark and big—and not fenced in. It only took me a couple seconds to figure out what I was seeing: A cowboy on horseback prancing along the roadside. As I turned my attention back to the road, I wondered what he was doing there, loitering along the shoulder. I quickly saw my answer: Ahead of me, spread across the entire roadway was a small herd of cows. Cows? Yes, cows.
While I tried to make sense of what I was seeing, I managed to screech on my brakes to keep from running into this little herd made up mainly of momma cows and their calves. I managed not to hit them, but not by much. And everything in the car flew to the floor. (I almost became a poster child for a Keep-Your-Eyes-On-The-Road campaign!)
These were not happy cows. One big momma seemed especially incensed that I had the nerve to be blocking her path. By the time I got my wits about me and retrieved my camera from the floor, a good part of the herd was behind me. (The dirty front window did not help with the pictures either–sorry.) By now, there were cars about 6 or 7 deep stopped in both directions as the cows ambled along. There were a few other cowboys skirting the edges of this little cow drive, but they did not really seem to be in charge.
I finally was able to move on, enjoying the rest of the day’s drive. I must admit, I felt like I had just detoured through a little corner of Gary Larson’s Far Side World so often populated with cows.
Looking back, it was a rather nice adventure. Moo.