They were starting to cut some roads into the woods above the Almaden vineyards. The patches of naked earth were reddish orange/brown in color, which glistened in the bright, clear sunlight for the moisture of the newly turned earth. It could almost be seen as torn flesh where its protective skin was the low canopy of the dense oak forest, this, when viewed from a fair distance.
It was bad enough when they turned over scores upon scores of acres of flat, bottom land where we grew our crops of vegetables. However, to watch the old, quiet forest be transformed into a suburb in a few dozen hours, this was really depressing.
I used to take my dog for walks above the new road beds, like in some way, to pay my respects to these woods that would soon be dozed over and burned. These were always sombre walks, quiet and restive.
But there was one afternoon, as the sun was setting behind our backs, that was just real damn depressing. We were approaching the crown of a low, easy hill when we found ourselves at the top of shallow but rocky bluff. We looked down the rocky face below, where the saplings were starting to push through the fallen rock, long ago sheared from this small cliff.
Through the deepening shadows down below, I saw something I hadn’t expected. There was the carcass of a calf rotting on the rock shards beneath us. At first, I thought perhaps it had fallen down from up near our position, but, that wasn’t real likely, even a calf wouldn’t be that stupid or clumsy. We back tracked a little and circled round this little scar in the hill. It didn’t take long to find the dead cow. It was white with big brown patches on its hide, the hide and bones being about all that was left. The birds and the foxes and the insects had pretty much cleaned all the meat out, but the hide was still kind of flexible so the death probably took place several months before, not twenty years ago. But, more than a death, this was a crime scene.
The calf scull had a very large hole on one side and in the hole was a large, broken rock with several sharp edges. In my mind’s eye, I immediately concluded that some tract kids had pointlessly killed this calf just to see if they could do it. When the tract kids from the new surrounding neighborhoods went out on to bare fields or into the woods, they always would travel as a gang. You almost never saw one of these new people out in nature solo, but nearly always in loud, rousty gangs. They respected nothing. They would climb the fruit trees, carelessly breaking off limbs and tearing up the bark. They’d chase chickens, squirrels, cats and cattle. Anything that moved would get rocks thrown at it along with jeers and taunting laughter. These people just had no respect. Everything was a joke to them.
I stepped back a few paces from the carcass and looked up to where I had first seen it, up atop the low bluff. I could just see it happening. A bunch of tract brats probably came up on a few stray cattle minding their own business, calming grazing in the shade of the wood. The kids would spook the unfortunate cattle and this calf probably got separated from his mom, and those nasty jerks chased it over the edge of the bluff and down onto these rocks.
The sharp cornered rock was just all too handy and they clubbed the injured calf’s head with it, seeing if the rock would really do anything. They probably freaked out and ran away from all the blood and the squalling, suffering animal.
Calves don’t commit suicide with rocks. Though I presumed this whole story, it was probably true. Nothing else quite fits the facts any better.
As we started down the hill in the deepening dark, I recalled a much earlier incident where the city people carelessly spoiled our environs. I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, and I was riding in the cab of farmer Al’s old Chevy pickup. We were headed out to Calero Dam to check out the status of the irrigation of a large prune orchard at the back of the dam’s lake. As we drove towards the mountains where the dam was located, the narrow Almaden road rose gradually and gently, higher and higher, until it became a mountain road itself. We were still on the rising, straight part of the road when we passed a large number of empty cars and horse trailers which was pretty unusual in our neighborhood. All at once, Al started cursing and cranking on the steering wheel. In those days, middle aged farmers didn’t usually use swear words around young children. This outburst surprised me, and I perked up, looking around to see what had prompted it.
To read what prompted the outburst, see the complete posting at http://lgartbridge.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/clash-of-cultures/