When I was a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, I took a friend of mine up to Cades Cove. She was beginning her third year, but had never been. It was early Autumn, and though the color wasn't high, I expected we'd see lots of deer. And we did. She'd never seen white tail deer before and she was amazed when I predicted that they'd flash their white tails when I startled them.
But I was even more amazed to find that she was less interested in the deer than in the cattle. There was still at least one working farm in the Cove then and she'd never seen cows before. Not up close like that. See, she was from Philly. A City Girl.
Now, I wasn't raised on a farm or anything like that. But I guess I had a basic working knowledge of cows and certainly I'd been on other people's farms and my granddad sold supplies to farmers. And from a young age I'd been to my cousins' other grandparents and my uncle had let me bottle feed calves as a special treat. You have to make your own fun in small town Tennessee.
I understood that not everyone had experiences like that, but I thought everyone had seen a cow. But I took real joy in her fascination. I did have to explain to her that it wasn't such a good idea to hop the fence and get in with the bullocks trying to pet them.
I don't know what they have in Philly, but around the UK there are City Farms. Back when the Vol-in-Law and I were first married in Sheffield and had no money we used to regularly visit Graves Park and city farm. That was a great city farm. There was a petting area and they had acres of pens stocked with rare breeds - heritage pigs and the woolly mammoth looking highland cattle.
When we lived in Coventry, we took one sad, sorry visit to a city farm in what's described in policy circles here as a "deprived area". Apparently, they'd had some unfortunate incidents in the past and so visits to the animals had to be supervised. We were escorted around the livestock by a sickly looking ten year old who kept a close and suspicious eye on how we petted the pony.
Buddy likes animals and I certainly wouldn't want him growing up to be a young adult who's never seen a cow up close and personal.
Early agricultural training
Where we live now, there's a city farm within walking distance of our house. It's a long walk, but it's doable. On Sunday, we went there, breaking our trip with a stop at an Italian restaurant and a glass of wine overlooking the River Wandle. (Sounds swish, but the Wandle is little better than a drainage ditch in some places).
Deen City Farm isn't exactly a petting zoo, but if you go at a certain time (2 to 3 and some other window in the morning hours) you can buy a plastic cup full of feed pellets to coax the goats and sheep and alpacas close enough to the bars of their pens. to stick your hand in and stroke their woolly coats.
We didn't spend much time on the cows this last visit, as they're not really on eye level with the baby.
Buddy's happy to see the animals, but he's not amazed and he's not cowed. He kicked a greedy goat in the head.
And stuck his finger in the aviary, much to the delight of some hungry, curious parakeety type things. The bird bit him on the finger, which freaked me out a little (I have a slight avian phobia) but phased him not at all. He withdrew his finger, considered his position and then poked the bird again.