The beasts of the field

Have you ever seen a cow dance? I did, this week, in Caswell County.

I spent all day Tuesday on a farm outside of Yanceyville. It was the most beautiful day. Slight breeze, warm sun, blue sky, rolling green pastures, birds singing - a scene one might recall when one needs to go to their "happy place."

The farm is owned by one Mr. Fawcett, a 72-year old black man who pooled his $500, with some of his father's money, to purchase the land when he was just 13 years old. He and his wife built a home there, based on a design he had seen in a magazine. They have 9 cows, some hogs, and grow a little hay, corn, tobacco, and whatever else they feel like.

The cows showed inordinate interest in whatever we did, often taking up a position about 10 feet away and staring directly at us, occasionally snorting, for what seemed like a half an hour. As the shadows got longer, Mr. Fawcett said, "well, I'm going to feed my hogs," and a few minutes later I caught sight of him trundling over the green hills on his tractor.

He was saying something. At first I wasn't sure if he was talking to us, or to another person who was just out of sight. It sounded like he was saying, "Hey bull!" I watched and waited for his friend to come into view.

His friend was a cow. As his tractor drew near, she froze in place, tensed as if she would break into a run. But she didn't run, and she wasn't scared. As Mr. Fawcett drew up beside her, this cow broke into a dance.

It was the kind of dance your dog does when you come home after being away at work all day. He is so overjoyed to see you that he literally wags his entire body. He hops, skips, leaps, does the shuffle-step, and shakes his head in all directions. He can't seem to find enough ways to physically express how much he missed you, and how he is the happiest doggy on the planet now that you are home. That's how this cow greeted the sight of Mr. Fawcett on his tractor.

Soon he came back, and we all stood around outside the smokehouse where some meat was curing. We talked about the weather, and the farm. One of my colleagues asked Mr. Fawcett if the road running along his property, Fawcett Road, was named for his family.

"Naw," he said, and paused. I couldn't fathom the coincidence, and waited for his explanation. "That there road is named for the slaveowners that owned my family."

The air changed; not in a bad way, but the moment seemed to crystallize around a new awareness. The sun was setting, our work was done, and it was nearly dinnertime. There wasn't any good response that came to mind, other than a few moments of respectful silence, listening to the cows snorting and the birds chirping excitedly at the approaching darkness.

I had asked Mr. Fawcett about the cow, and he chuckled and said he guessed she was his pet. He told me that he always tosses her some of the bread crumbs he's taking to the hogs. To a cynic, that would explain the dance. But I prefer my initial interpretation: that was one happy cow, and one contented farmer, in a display of mutual affection on a beautiful, hard-won piece of farmland in Caswell County, North Carolina.

On her blog last Thursday, News & Record Religion Reporter Nancy McLaughlin asked, "Do we really want to talk about race?"

I do. You bet I do. Even more so after meeting Mr. Fawcett. Not because it's easy, but because it's not.

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine.

-- Psalms 50:10-11

Faith & Community

A large, community wide interfaith event: Faith & Community - A Call to Prayer, A Celebration of Hope will be held at the First Baptist Church at 1000 West Friendly Ave. on Sunday April 10th at 6:00 pm.

Featured Key Speaker is Dr. Peter Storey

* Dr. Peter Storey is the Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University. Peter Storey is a South African Methodist preacher, pastor and church leader. After ordination in the 1960s, he developed innovative down-town ministries in Cape Town and Johannesburg. While in Cape Town he was Nelson Mandela's prison chaplain on Robben Island. He is a former Bishop of the Johannesburg/Soweto area and national leader of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. In these positions, and as president of the South African Council of Churches, working closely with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he helped give leadership to the church's anti-apartheid struggle. He has played key roles in peacemaking structures in South Africa and was appointed by President Mandela to help select the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Join with people of many faiths for a unique gathering of information, music, dance and prayers on healing and reconciliation from the traditions of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Jane Wellford and her troupe will perform a Liturgical Dance. Music from the Tapestry Chorus and others. Wiley Sykes and John Heitzenrater will perform Hindu music from Northern India.

Learn what is being done to foster reconciliation and how you can be involved.

Hear from leaders of these key projects on racism and healing: Mayor Holliday for the Mosaic Project, Commissioner Cynthia Brown for the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission and Monica Walker and Kay Doost for the Partnership Project.

Reception and dialogue with project leaders and Commissioners will follow.


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