When I was a child, some snowy spring mornings we’d wake and come downstairs to breakfast to find a new-born calf or two lying on the kitchen floor. My father had been out in the middle of the night and had spotted their mothers off by themselves, and rescued the calves before they froze to death. They’d look up at us and bleat and sometimes even try to stand, so Dad would have to calm them, drying them with a towel.
As I sat there eating my Corn Flakes, I often thought about how strange it must seem to the calf, being in this supernaturally warm space that their mother had never seen and would never see. But then I would think about that further and realize that the only other experience they’d had besides the womb was the snowbank. Besides the womb, everything was strange. This place might even be less strange and shocking than the snowbank.
And I would wonder about how it would feel to go back to their mothers, out into the cold world, and live out there for the rest of their lives, never coming back into this house. Would they retain a memory of this moment in the months and years to come? What would they tell the others about this place? Perhaps their stories would become a kind of mythology in the cow world: being born and spirited immediately off to a sort of heaven or hell or combination of the two that they might long for or fear but would never see again.
What would the other cows make of these stories? Would anyone even believe them?