January 19, 2015

Revenge of the Cows

In addition to being delicious, the Charolais cattle featured in Friday's post are apparently big fans of this site...and obviously, they weren't too happy with my conclusion. 

My wife and I took advantage of one of the few times when we are kid-free to enjoy a lunch out on the town together. After a nice meal of vegetable soup (her) and rutabaga, goat cheese, honey tart (me) followed by a main dish of Charolais beef in a vinegar wine sauce (maybe our dining choice determined what was to happen next...), I decided to show my wife a forest trail that I was eager to walk down with her and the boys. I drove to the spot and pulled off onto the grass on a mild slope so we could walk down the path a ways. This attempt to remove the car from the "main" road was the least necessary courtesy in the history of driving. For the next 40 minutes, not one car passed.

Our little walk concluded, we climbed back in the car. I eased 'er into first gear and...we slipped a little ways down the slope. I gunned it harder, tried reversing, and then turned off the engine.

Mud bath. 

My wife took over the driving and I began pushing, convinced that we would succeed. We were less than two feet from pavement! We rocked it back and forth, but it was stuck. I tried slipping some wet cardboard we had found on the road under the tires, but no go.

The walk from our car to our house was happily only 20 minutes. I crowned myself the King of the Morons in the first minute, invited my wife to concur or add any labels, and then suggested perhaps it was just best to let me own it without any additional input from her. By minute six, we were definitely laughing, and I couldn't help but think of the last line of Friday's post. Those cows, I guess, wanted me to know how it feels to be stuck in the mud under sheets of Burgundy rain.

On the upside, it would be difficult to imagine a better place for this to happen. Approximately 80% of our vehicular traffic is tractors. They drive back and forth in front of our house all day and all night, a mechanical army of work. Whether carrying giant hay bails on their fork, towing a wagon filled with a handful of Charolais cows, tugging vast quantities of manure, these machines are ready for anything. Certainly pulling a pathetic blue Reneault Scenic out of four inches of mud would pose no problem.

As I walked down the muddy driveway of the farm, I counted no fewer than five tractors in the barnyard. I flagged down the driver of a huge John Deere with an empty cattle wagon hitched up. I said, "Excusez-moi de vous déranger, Monsieur. I live in that house right over there, and I am the King of the Morons. I have just got my car stuck in the mud about 3 kilometers from here."

He gave me a huge smile, and said, "That doesn't only happen to morons. It sometimes happens to intelligent people, too." Big chuckle.

I felt this was going to work out. I explained in a little more detail where I was stuck, and he said don't worry, we'll take care of it. He had "une grosse heure" of work to do (moving some of the cattle that I had so callously mocked in the morning and then eaten at lunch), but then he would pick me up at my house. "Even if it's dark, don't worry...I've got spotlights." 

I pointed to the form of the woman I love more than anything in the world a few hundred yards away, and said, "The good news is my wife is still talking to me." He laughed and said, "Mine left me, but they haven't put me in the ground yet!"

Back in my driveway, I crossed one of our paysan friends and told him of my troubles. He claimed he could go with me right now with his little Citroen hatchback and tow me out, but I passed, saying I already had a date with a huge tractor. 

About 90 minutes later, I hopped into the cab of the tractor with the farmer, who was working his way through a Marlboro red, and five minutes later we were at the scene of idiocy. My car looked helpless next to the tractor. He did a quick U-turn, parked the tractor in front of the car, set up the tow cord, told me to get in the car and "let me do all the work."

How long did it take? Read this sentence really slowly: "OK, you're all set. Perfect."

We stood and talked in front of the idling tractor for ten minutes or so, Didier (another name!) plowing through smokes and telling me a bit of his life story. He outlined the lethal combination of increased feed prices and plummeting beef prices, told me he used to be très sportif in his younger days, and just about drooled when he discussed his love of a good Charolais steak with excellent fries. I slid a few euros into his hand, thanked him profusely, and we climbed into our respective vehicles, out of the rain.

As is so often the case in a foreign country, even bad breaks turn into good news. 


  1. Thanks for reading...and commenting!

  2. I'm a french reader, from Lascaux in Perigord. My day won't be complete 'til I've read every single one of theses posts. I started by the oldest one and now I'm here. They're all too good. Congratz !

    PS : I landed on your blog through the courrier international mini-site.

  3. My Parisian "family" who hosted me for two years in the 1990s has a house in Sarlat. Love Périgord. Have you read Martin Evans' books, Bruno Chief of Police?
    Thank you for reading. More posts to come...