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Typically I walk straight from the Swine Barn into the Cow Barn . I have a stock barn rotation I like to follow which minimizes the steps I take between barns and saves my energy for standing and sketching, and later, for walking to get corn dogs. Today was no different, I headed right into the Cow Barn.

I saw this lovely Jersey cow lying in her hay at the end of a row and had to stop. Watching her chew her cud from behind her slender neck, watching the cheeks go back and forth, was mesmerizing. To sketch her I stood right up next to her, at the edge of her hay. There were only a few (maybe 3 inches) between us. I could feel the heat of her body rising up into the barn air.

Suddenly a family of 5, all wearing fire-engine red camp shirts, surrounded me. (Families and groups often come to the Fair dressed alike so that they can spot each other easily in the crowd.) In seconds the teenagers and adults had insinuated themselves between me and the cow. Remember there is only a 3 inch space there, and I didn't have on an invisibility cloak!

The father and two eldest siblings (a girl and a boy both in their teens) began poking the cow in her back. If they had been jabbing her I would have said something, but since their pokes could be seen as failed attempts to pet her I simply gave the father "the look." According to friends and family, let's just hope you never see "the look."

The father immediately looked sheepish and stepped back, but he didn't say anything to his kids. Then their poking-patting turned into jabs, "I want it to get up?" The girl said. I opened my mouth to ask them to pet the cow nicely but before I could say a syllable the father swooped back in, said, "let's go," and the cow started to stand up. They were half way across the barn before she was standing.

I don't understand why this family is into poking cows. I also don't understand why out of all the cows in the barn they had to pick this one and push between us, except that sometimes when you sketch in public your interest draws the interest of others, "What IS she looking at." I remain concerned amount the lack of empathy and gentleness I see when people touch animals. I see more and more of this.

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Illustration © 2007 Roz Stendahl; All Rights Reserved