The heifer was still there, lying in the grass, slowly chewing, as the sun dropped behind the dark wall of woods. She watched us as we walked westward and then again later as we returned, walking downhill and east. Earlier we’d seen the rest of the herd, far off in the southern pasture, dots of caramel brown, black, weathered bone, but now her companions had disappeared, leaving her where she’d been for most of the day. Her dark brown skin must’ve been a sponge for the heat, but she didn’t seem to mind, and now as the day reluctantly cooled, the color of her coat and the brown of the dry grass merged into the gray scale of dusk.
When we looked back, we saw that she’d gotten to her feet and was facing in our direction. Slowly she walked towards us and towards the barbed wire gate that leads to water. Kel went to open it and I sprinted to the pump so that I could fill the deep black trough. As Kel unlatched the gate and moved into the small paddock near the house, she ambled behind him, like a dog on a long leash. She made her way slowly to the trough and dipped her head down, pulling the water into her in long drags. We could hear the sound of the water being sucked into her body. When she lifted her head to breathe, long strings of water poured off of her muzzle and dripped back into the trough. She watched us; she watched the dog sniffing around in the grass.
Kel and I sat on the driveway across from her, giving her some distance; the stored heat from the pavement seeping into us. Guinea fowls chattered somewhere far off, their sound like a dozen screen doors badly in need of oil, opening and closing simultaneously. At some point the buzzing of the cicadas dwindled and ceased. Water dripped from the spigot onto the grass. The dog turned to bite its tail and the sky changed from pale lavender to a tired gray, like white socks washed with the dark load. The young cow stood at the trough until the leaves finally lost their color and the rounded edges of the sky grew darker, then she turned and headed back towards the pasture and her herd.