The thrill of travel is right under our noses, hidden under the humdrum of the everyday. While each day grindingly runs into the next, hidden micro-adventures wait to be discovered by those willing to shake things up a bit.
My brother helped me move into my new apartment two months ago, and I told him lunch was on me out of appreciation for his muscles and time.
“How about burgers down at the cow-yard?” he suggested. That’s right, it was a Tuesday!
Tuesdays are auction days here down at the cow-yard. Ranchers and farmers bring their cows in trailers and buy and sell the bovine creatures. An attached cafè (a totally mom-and-pops American diner sort, not European, je suis desolè mès amis) provides tasty burgers made from scratch along with simple sides.
From the moment we parked among all the semis and trailers and trucks [the last pronounced with a guttural expression deep from one’s beer belly], it was obvious that we were tourists in our own town.
We walked into the cafè attached to the auction arena and sat at a back table, and took in the scene while our charming waitress Veneta came to take our order.
Picture two u-shaped elevated orange diner tables, where everyone (mostly in plaid shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots) sat on stools facing the cooks and servers. Most of the population had cowboy hats on. Waitresses talked familiarly with all the regulars, looking them in the eye, and smiling while pouring them their afternoon cup of coffee.
It was like something out of a vintage western hallmark movie.
Of course, out came my sketchbook and the scene was immortalized in between bites of burger, fries, and onion rings. Once our food was ingested and my picture sketched, Tim suggested checking out the actual auction with ice cream. Yes. Absolutely.
The most necessary ice cream in hand, I paid our dues and we followed the trail of Eau de Cow Manure and found a mini-amphitheater where the main performers were skittish cows, a rotund conductor -a matador of sorts- and a singing auctioneer.
Dessert in hand, we took our seats amidst the ranchers and other people from the world of farmers and ranchers, feeling a little conspicuous. We began to watch the show.
The auctioneer would announce the cow, and its description, then start the bidding song -it really was like a song, though it was very hard to follow the words because they came so fast.
Even harder to follow was the bidding process, as the men in the audience very discreetly put in their bids. I was afraid to move even my fingers or make eye contact of any sort.
At one point, I raised my hand to get in a good drawing position.
Something about the way the auction moved forward in the following seconds made me tense up.
I gulped, body tight, and inwardly panicking. Had I unknowingly BOUGHT A COW with my brief arm motion?
I sat, petrified, eyes darting back and forth to the auctioneer, trying to look like I HAD NOT bought a cow.
I kept looking. Then, after eternal seconds, with the way the auctioneer looked over at Tim and me, I could see he knew we were only there for the show.
My body and mind relaxed with relief, and I tried to go back to my sketch in between the consoling ice cream. As I type, my body still is shaky with relief recalling those moments!
As the auction burbled on, it seemed very likely that all bidders had a specific number they were bidding from and may have been putting their numbers into a digital system. (Maybe I need to go down to the cow-yard and inquire…)
Once the ice cream was finished and the sketch completed, we made our way down the stairs and out as one set of cows was ushered off their manured arena, and the next clambered in. I
In Portugal, my sisters and I had driven past a few arenas where bullfights occurred. Back here in Kansas, walking out of the mini-arena and around the curved wall recalled a sliver of those glimpses, and the windmills which overlooked them. In that instant, walking around the mini-amphitheater and making those connections, I felt like I had an invisible run-in with Don Quixote.
We nodded (in my head of course) and I followed my brother, while dreaming knight in his eccentric 17th century uniform, sauntered past me, forlorn, and out of place in this world.
In moments we were back in the sunny parking lot, surrounded by a soundtrack of mooing and lowing in the background, trucks and trailers of all sorts around us, and the sweet smell of cow manure pulling it all together. No windmills or ancient amphitheaters or knights forever jousting in vain.
Who knew a quick little ordinary lunch would bring about the thrill, panic, wonder, and connections of travel-even across time -along with the awkwardness of obviously being ‘not from around here?’ The experience definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone, and we certainly gained more insight and appreciation of who and what makes up our community, as well as stomachs full and content with American beef.
What hidden little micro-adventure are you willing to uncover?
Thanks so much for reading!
Not sure where to start on your own micro-advetures? My brother gifted this book to me one year, thinking it’d be a great tool to spice up my activities with the college boarding students I used to supervise. It’s been a constant source of inspiration just seeing it on my bookself.
(Note: when you click the above photo link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Click, and you’re the best! )
Fun fact: These photos were taken on my lunch break in the parking lot while painting in St. Isadore’s Catholic Church on the K-State Campus.