One day, a long time ago but not too long ago, our bucket gal set out with me to have a mosey around the County Island, as she often does. It was a warm, peaceful day durin the time right before the hot time, a perfect kinda day when the sunshine feels so danged good on your butt. And the ground is covered with bits of green grass to nibble on, and the rabbits are all hoppin around in circles makin more rabbits, and the birds are chirpin from way up in their nest-holes in all the cactus, and the flies ain’t started to fly yet, and all the snakes are still wherever the snakes are before they get so grumpy. It was the kind of day where a horse could tell supper time was comin early, too, likely as soon as we got back to our home corral, but the day was so serene that a horse didn’t even care about hurryin back to his bucket, he was just happy to be out and about.
We were sharin that perfect moment, me and the bucket gal, as we ambled down the road. Her feet were kicked out of the stirrups and she left my reins long and drapey like I like ‘em. She was likely feelin at least half as day-dreamy as I was.
And that was when the ground under my hooves began to vibrate. And at the same time, out of the corner of my sleepy eye, I spied the hazy specter of cattle.
Now, I ain’t a horse to spook at cattle. Obviously not. But to my eye, this was cattle, upon cattle, upon cattle, at a place where there usually ain’t cattle at all, poppin up out of the green grass, poppin out from behind the cactus and the palo verdes, and all of them peerin dead-on at me. And every time a cow popped up, my hooves felt the ground rumble a little harder, like the whole County Island was rumblin with the runnin of a far-reachin fury. It felt like thousands of ‘em, risin up from the earth and set to stampede straight through me and the bucket gal!
So I did the only logical thing I could. I spun hard-left, away from the boltin bovines. I was set to run like I ain’t run in years, when I remembered.
Oh yeah. This is the place that’s got cattle. Only usually they’re in a pen in the back. Maybe they moved ‘em up front so they could graze the grass. Oh. And then I turned to look at ‘em, and there was maybe 10 of ‘em in all, blinkin big, soft eyes at me, not hardly boltin at all. Behind a big, solid fence. Oh.
The bucket gal was pattin my neck and teasin me about bein a big bad ranch horse that’s afraid of somebody’s pet cows. I felt a little foolish, so I flipped my head and snorted hard to say yeah, well, the cows ain’t usually here by road, so… there.
Turns out later, I overheard our bucket gal say there’d been a phenomenon called an earthquake at a far, faraway ranch called San Diego that had been felt by people all the way from the San Diego ranch to damned near the County Island, right about the exact same time of day we rode past the cow place.
I assume earthquake’s a literal word. I am here to tell y’all that I did, indeed, feel the earth quake that day with my own four hooves, all the way from San Diego, and that I know what a cattle stampede feels like, too, when it’s comin at a horse. I think I’m likely the first horse or human to have figured out what causes earthquakes — which is to say, clearly, cattle. And I don’t think I can imagine the magnitude of a stampede that size.
So, I try to remain vigilant here on the County Island. Which is to say, I ain’t at all spooky about it, but I do try to remember now to look for cows in unlikely places, in case any of these codified cows ever get a notion to start an earthquake around these parts. If there ain’t no earthquakes here, ya’ll can thank me.