Author: Cornish, Rick

Breakfast at the Cow
At 5:30 a.m. this morning, Lynn informed me we were going to the cow cafe for breakfast. It’s actually named something else but we call it the cow café because the entire décor is done in post-modern bovine—cow place mats, cow coffee cups, cow wall hangings and statues and murals and cut-outs of every hue and description. The only break in the motif can be found in the tiny unisex bathroom; there on the wall, sandwiched between a big black-and-white photo of cattle crowding into a slaughter house shut and a pastel water color of a calf and mother hangs a photograph of Marlin Monroe. Go figure.

So in we walk into the cow café. The place is full of men in flannel shirts and baseball caps. We take the only empty table, smack between two single tables…, with an old guy wearing a fishing hat and fly-fishing vest, the other with a giant, younger man in flannel shirt and baseball cap. As we sit down they’ve just begun a conversation. Now that we’re sitting between them, they can’t really see one another, but that’s okay, they both know the other is there.

“So Fred,” says the giant in a thunderous giant’s voice, “been fishin’?”

“Yup”, says Fred, not looking up from his Union Democrat.

“Went on Tuesday, right? Ya always go on Tuesdays, or so I recall,” says the giant.


“My guess is you didn’t catch much.”


“Is it true that this time a’ year, as warm as it is, the fish just ain’t interested?”

Fred looks up from his paper, sort of peering at the ceiling as though thoroughly considering the question. Finally….”That’s true.”

Encouraged, the flannelled giant goes down a different path. “How long’s it take you to drive up to Lake Hogan? ‘Bout an hour?”

“And fifteen”, says Fred, reading again.

“And no traffic this time ‘a year, what with all the tourists gone home. Is that true?”

“That is true.”

Now, all this time Lynn and I are sitting silently between Fred and the giant. I’m reading and re-reading the menu but I’m having trouble concentrating. Anyone else speaking as loudly as the giant would be screaming. But the giant’s just speaking normally in his giant’s voice. I can tell Lynn’s having the same problem. She’s frantically scanning the entire café looking for another table but there just aren’t any. She’s trapped and she knows it.

“German Browns”, the giant says suddenly. “That must be what you’re catching up there. German Browns. Right Fred?”

Fred looks up again, ponders, starts to speak, but then thinks better of it and goes back to the Democrat.

“Got me some Browns the last time I was up to Hogan,” says the giant, “but not this time ‘a year. Too late….and too warm, right?”


“But it sure is pretty up there this time ‘a year. Fish or no fish, it sure is pretty. The trees are changin’ color, just damned pretty.”

“Pretty,” agrees Fred.

Lynn orders poached eggs. I have the Ortega chili and swiss omelet made with eggbeaters. We eat in silence. Or at least she and I are silent. The conversation between Fred and the giant goes on, directly through us.

Finally the giant stands, an enormous man, and tosses some bills on the table. He strides over to Fred’s table and extends his huge bear paw. “Nice talking with ya, Fred.” Fred looks up at the giant. “Yup,” he says, “I always enjoy our talks, Steve.”
Posted:  10/24/2003

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