Woodworking: ‘Happy’ California cows? Not after what I saw and smelledNow that I can no longer fulminate about the state of the sidewalk in front of our house, I’ll have to find something else to drive me nearly insane. (This column writing business isn’t as easy as you might think.)
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Now that I can no longer fulminate about the state of the sidewalk in front of our house, I’ll have to find something else to drive me nearly insane. (This column writing business isn’t as easy as you might think.)
Let’s start with California. We’ve recently arrived from a trip to the Golden State to visit our niece Zara Pirsig and her new husband Matt.
We had a great time with them, but not such a great time getting there.
I’ve complained before about the ubiquitous TV commercials showing how happy California cows produce milk that makes wonderful cheese, like, you know, better than Wisconsin cheese or Minnesota cheese.
You’ve seen the commercial. It shows a bunch of Holsteins who all speak with a Scandinavian brogue.
They leave the snow-covered hills and vales of our fair state, saying “Hey, vee gotta leef and go tew California, vhere ve‘ll be happier.”
What a crock, if I may borrow a word from Kaukuana Club.
So I guess I can’t fulminate about that again. No use beating a dead horse.
Instead, I’ll talk about all the “happy” steers we saw during last month’s trip to the Golden State.
We’re driving along a major highway, heading for Monterey. I thought perhaps I’d like to view all the fruit and vegetable groves along the way.
They turned out to be something of a disappointment because they were so huge and laden with political signs complaining that Congress was depriving them of the water the farmers need to irrigate otherwise worthless land.
That was getting pretty boring, so thank goodness our next experience got my heart beating rapidly.
It all began when we detected an odor, so obnoxious that Ruth accused me of committing an intestinal transgression in the confines of our enclosed compact car.
I pled not guilty.
We drove on and in a mile or so discovered the source of the all invasive smell, which made your average rendering factory smell like Chanel No. 5.
It turned out to be a feedlot housing thousands of steers. The rains had turned the unpaved feedlot, which ran for at least two miles, into a festering mass of mud and feces.
The steers struggled through mud that reached their underbellies. They staggered, they leaned on each other, they bawled.
Fortunately for them, they were so crowded together they couldn’t have fallen down and drowned in their own filth.
Remember the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, who painted “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and other depictions of hell on earth? If Bosch were alive today and had been with us that day in California, he would have sat down to his easel and painted “The Feedlot of Earthly Delights,” a tableau of bovine Hades here in sunny California — if he could have tolerated the smell.
After we got a few miles away, we wondered what that feedlot would look like when the temperatures soar in the summer. Not a pleasant thought.
We have both seen movies like “Food, Inc.,” and “Burger Nation,” a comedy which reveals how much feces is permitted in a fast food hamburger and still be legal. But nothing has affected us as much as thinking about that feedlot and its inhabitants.
I’m no big fan of PETA, which often goes too far in its obsession with animal rights, like we shouldn’t milk dairy cows. But that feedlot — wow!
If justice were served, those steers would be set free and the feedlot owners would be torn from their multi-million dollar homes in Carmel and Monterey, stripped naked and shipped to their feedlot for a taste of their own medicine.
If any good came out of our ramble through California’s “happy” agriculture, it might be I’m not as quick as I used to be to order a big juicy hamburger, with a slab of “happy” cheese, and perhaps a soupcon of garlic from Gilroy, Calif., where every garlic field is at least 40 acres and tended by migrant workers.
From now on, I’ll be looking for grass-fed beef, even if it costs a bit more.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.