Plein Air: Ovando, Montana
August 9, 2015
Bull on the Blackfoot
Heading east of Missoula, the first spot we settled on was along the south fork of the Blackfoot River. It was a hot summer day, but we were able to find some shade. Unfortunately we had to share the cool space with a temperamental bull who didn’t want the company.
I wouldn’t label myself a city girl, but I didn’t grow up with cows unless they came in burger form or if I went camping. My childhood friend and I would hike and camp in Sky Meadows State Park along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Delphine, Virginia. Dairy cows would graze in the pastures that we crossed to reach the trails and campsites. I remember the misplaced fear I felt while walking through the benign animals. They would watch as we crossed with our packs. My friend assured me they were harmless, but I had never been around animals that large unless they were behind bars at the National Zoo. I would keep my head down and walk quickly, silently assuring them that I was a recent vegetarian.
As Rex and I made our way to shade, we heard a grunt and snort. The bull was about 100 yards away at under a neighboring tree. I looked at Rex and asked if we should go somewhere else, not liking the way he was glaring at us. Rex said no, we are fine, the bull is just curious.
Minutes later the bull was heading to us, at a slow pace but moaning and mooing his way over. I stood up and started to pack my bag. Rex said we’re fine and laughed at my nerves. The bull now stood under the tree directly behind us, about 20 feet away. He was not curious. He was mad. He began to stomp his hoof and grunt. I lifted my bag to my shoulder and told Rex I would be in the car. Rex said, it’s cool and not to worry. He grabbed a nearby branch and lifted it over his head, making himself larger. He shook it at the bull, letting him know we were here to paint and write, and that he would just have to deal with it. Soon (after a few more iterations) the bull went back to the neighboring tree to chew on his cud. But when we left, he followed us to the car. Maybe he was just curious.
After the too close cow encounter, we went to another plein air spot. But this time our only visitors were a herd of white-tailed deer peering at us from the horizon.