Monday, May 7, 2018

A Wee Camping Trip In The Highlands: Part 14 - You Remind Me Of Somebody

I woke up early on Sunday morning again to the pattering of rain on the roof. This had become a familiar thing. Every morning it seemed there was a light rain and gloomy skies, but there was always the hope that it might clear up. This gave Pam the best excuse she ever needed to pull the covers over her head and go for some real long distance sleeping.

I need to digress for a moment about the thing of traveling and meeting people. Our brains have a lot to think about and sometimes we just decide to make things easy on ourselves. We take a quick look at someone and if they remind of us of something we already know, well, that's close enough to make a decision. For years, I could not spend money at my local Italian Ice takeout shop. The workers would wave me on up from the long waiting line, hand me the usual and say "It's on us!". My wife was suspicious at first, but then took to sending me alone to get the ice, knowing it was much cheaper that way. I could only surmise that the folks there thought I was somebody else, someone important in the community perhaps. Many times we find ourselves instant friends with people we barely know, but there are those other times. I call those times the "I must look like her ex-husband" times. I cannot say this for certain, but if there is ever a situation where a mean old lady needs to make an example of someone, I'm sure to get called upon. Even as far away as Scotland this kind of stuff came into play. Our newfound friends were already getting sorted into my categories and I'm sure they were figuring out what kind of American I was. Animals are something else. Sometimes they like us and sometimes they don't. Most of us think we can be friends with any animal, until we meet the one that hates us instantly. I had already figured that one of the cows was nice and the other wasn't so nice, and he seemed to distinctly have it in for me above all of the other people around. I guessed that the guy that had put the brand on him had a bald head and a goatee.

The first thing I noticed once I opened the door and looked outside the van that Sunday morning, was the two Scottish coos standing by the fence near our campsite. There was a gray cast to the sky, and a bit of cool mist from the early drizzly rain. Our campground was actually a pretty decent location considering we were not in the woods. Before this trip, I had thought, how terrible it must be to come all the way to Scotland, rent a camper, and then camp in some farmer's cornfield. What I didn't take into account was how breathtaking the scenery was. 

We were at the bottom of a steep hill and sandwiched between a cow pasture and the loch. A loch seems nothing much like a lake back home. It’s more like the salt rivers in Florida in that there are tides and salty water. It seems like it had been an extreme low tide our whole stay. On the far side of the loch, you could see old abandoned houses. I'd been told that folks considered it a fortunate thing when someone could tell the story of a home and the family that had lived there. Everything was hundreds of years old, and sometimes people had just left for a better life somewhere else, leaving no word behind. So, there were many falling down structures that begged for their story to be told, but there was no one to tell it.  I was amazed to think that so many years ago, people had spread out so far into the world, built beautiful homes, fished, herded sheep, and raised children. They also made sure to  pay taxes to the Lairds so they'd have some protection from the other highlanders when the warriors weren't busy stealing sheep.

The night before, when the children and Pam were feeding the cow, I stood nearby, conversing with their parents and we compared notes on how they felt about Brexit and how we felt about Trump and the Wall. We had lots of common ground. None of us liked paying too much in taxes, and we all pretty much felt we could do better than the people in charge. They too had the family issues where you had to be careful of politics in family gatherings, as one young woman explained that she had to keep tabs on how much wine her husband had when he was around her Dad. "Three glasses, and he's off on it!" she exclaimed. What I noticed was that everybody was concerned about things that could make their life worse. The major story on the BBC around then wasn't "Was Trump really going to push the button on North Korea?", it was a story about a man who did a 'stand your ground' kind of thing. He had killed an immigrant that was invading his home and hundreds of people were putting flowers on his doorstep in memory of the poor immigrant...that is pretty much how the story played on TV, sounding much like Fox News back at home. Our new friends liked diversity, but not in their backyard. It sounded like a quite familiar story to me. We talked and laughed at length while Pam and the kids played with their hairy horned friend at the fence.

Meanwhile, I was keeping my eye on the not so friendly looking coo that was keeping his distance. He was  much larger and was standing at the top of the hill, looking down at me as if to say “I’ve got my eyes on you..”. I half expected to see steam snort from his nostrils and wondered if he could knock down that barbed wire fence if he took the notion. Judging by his size, I’d say that fence would not even slow him down a bit. They say you can tell a lot about someone by the position of their feet on the ground. I'm pretty sure that cow could tell my feet were pointing away, not to mention that my body was turned and in a running stance. Ever once in a while I got a glimpse of a tiny pupil in an eye peering at me from under all that hair. I was pretty sure he had dishonorable intentions. 
And there I was in early the next morning, after the drizzle had let up a bit. Sliding open the door of the van in hopes of making a dash for the shower, and there he was, head up, full alert, right at the fence, mere yards away from me. If he looked large from a distance, he was truly formidable up close.  He was looking straight at me now, not just in my general direction. I couldn’t see his eyes exactly, but those horns were pointing this way for sure. I wasn't even sure that the door to the van would stop this guy if he put his back into it. I felt my pulse racing and wondered if we had anything in the van that would slow a charging Highland coo. I quickly grabbed Pam and pulled her behind me for protection  while pointing at the furious beast over at the fence where a little English girl now stood, scratching his head as he bent down further so she could reach where it really needed scratching.
Soon, Pam was out with the little girl, feeding him some of the grass that he couldn’t reach through the fence, while every once in a while, a large hairy head would pop up to make sure that bald-headed guy hadn't moved. I’d get that mean ‘stay away and I mean it’ look. I was glad to comply, even though Pam kept coaxing me to come over and pet the nice ‘coo’.

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