We were driving down a gently twisting two lane road of paved black tar, slowly descending from a series of elevated hills down into a lower, flat valley. The land on either side of the car rolled with small supple hills; the gentleness of the hills was a reflection of the softness in the wind, which moved constantly like a controlled breath, cooling our skin with the grace and strength of a woman gliding across an empty dance floor. The unclouded sun was working to dry out each stalk of grass. There was still evidence of some green, although light gold was the predominant color of the landscape. The sun was high overhead and the light around us was bright white and crisp and we all wore sunglasses to protect ourselves against its radiation. The paved road was black and warm, it accepted us into its narrow passageway and we hugged the tight curves slowly, trying to capture every detail with our pens and lens.
We were alone on this stretch of road. We passed pale colored houses every now and again. Light blue single story houses with white curtains, cream colored barns and small family-sized vegetable gardens. We passed a few large pickup trucks in the driveways of the houses and American flags on the porches, but never an actual person. In this small stretch of country road, we seemed to be alone. These were small farms, miles away from the large industrial farms that extended their tight geometric rows of almonds trees for miles. This was family land and the houses were long ranch structures, built years ago and slightly beaten by the elements.
As we drove slowly along a tight curve in the road which veered to the right, I saw a cluster of decaying oak trees out the right back window of the car. I jolted upright and moved to grab my camera, but the vision went past before I could push the button. I couldn’t let it become a fuzzy thought in my memory, so we turned the car around and pulled the car over on the other side of the road, about fifty feet from the trees. I stepped out of the car and onto the soft earth. The ground was the color of white corn and fine as dust. The ignition was turned off, and we were left with the silence of the land. There were no motors, no voices or engines, just a soft buzzing of distant insects and my footsteps crunching small rocks on the pavement. I crossed the road and walked up the right side along a short fence. The fence was made of graying wood beams and barbed wire.
As I walked closer to the trees, I saw a cluster of cows on the right that I had missed as we drove past the first time. There were at least three dozen, all of them were adult and a shiny reddish brown color. Some were standing and eating, others were laying down, making larger imprints on the grass. There was a large oak tree close to them and a couple of cows were resting in the shade. They were large and their strength was impressive and I felt small as I approached the herd. They heard my approaching footsteps and turned to locate the source of the sound. Three dozen sets of eyes turned towards me all at once, each one seeking eye contact. Those whose bodies were turned from me twisted their heads in my direction. Some, caught chewing, watched me with blades of grass spurting from their mouths. Whatever they had been doing, they all found me and watched me walk. I was an outsider, walking through their world. Like the new arrival in a country western movie just stepping into the town’s saloon, they all turned to size me up. They looked at me, silent, observant, and feeling no threat, because none of them made a move to flee. They swooshed their tails and flies continued to land close to their eyes. I kept walking, a bit nervous, a bit self conscious in front of so many eyes. They stared, I stared. Behind low barbed wire fence. I passed them by a couple dozen feet and walked past them to the cluster of oak trees. Last I saw them, they were still looking at me, still examining the strange intruder that trespassed the silence of their quiet lives.