Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Monday, November 16, 2009

How Now Brown Swiss?

GRANT WOOD: "All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I confess it. Sometimes I talk to the cows. I do it in English because I'd be ashamed to utter my treble moo in front of a cow with a basso profondo that makes my toenails curl. If only I could open my mouth and have that sound come out! Then I'd have a real conversation, and the cows would pay attention. And back in the city, think how useful the talent to moo could be in clearing a path on a crowded subway platform.

Mostly, the cows show no reaction to my chatter. Those who think cows to be sluggards who mind nothing but hay and grass are mistaken. While most of their lives are spent standing and chewing, if you get anywhere near them you will discover inquiring minds meditating on the meaning of your presence. They are not like dogs who mostly want your attention and love. Nor are they like cats who require your obeisance. Mostly, cows just want to know.

I often try to get near and snap a candid shot of the herd, but usually they spot me coming and follow every move. Then my photos look like posed family portraits, all eyes on the lens. Cheese! And after I've crossed the pasture and am moving on, they are usually still watching until I'm out of sight.

Of course, occasionally they do talk to me, and then my toenails curl.