Guest Commentary 

People should embrace the cultures of their adopted homes

I am not originally from these parts, though I have lived in Tucson longer than many natives. Therefore, I ought to be comfortable around cows, but I am not. I consider this a shortcoming.

Recently, my lovely wife and I were camping in the wilds of northern New Mexico. One night, we camped in a large grassy area occupied by numerous cows, bulls, steers and calves. Well after dark, and after we retired to our tent, I heard a deep, dark, bellow that was full of menace. I felt a chill. A few minutes later, I heard it again ... closer. A few minutes after that, it was closer still.

I sat up and peered into the inky blackness to try to surmise how much time we had left. My wife asked what I was doing. I replied, "There is a cow out there, and it is heading right for us. ... I'm getting in the truck cab."

My eternally patient wife replied, "If you go yell at it, it will probably just go away."

My wife grew up in North Dakota, owned a pony and, for all I know, was probably a 4-H Club member. She was definitely "down" with the cow thing. I, on the other hand, grew up in one of those "parentheses states," as Tom Wolfe describes them--these are the states that bracket America, but are not really a part of it--and never stood next to any animal larger than a dog until I moved to Tucson. Animals that weigh as much as a Toyota Prius give me the willies.

I never did enter the cab of the truck--the beast halted its advance--but the damage to my honor as a Tucsonan was done. I was not worthy of the name.

Morning came, and the cattle numbers had swollen. A bull strode along a tangent to our camp, then turned and walked toward us. I felt it was time to face my fear. I walked toward him. He stopped. I held up my right hand and shouted, "My name is Jonathan, and I fear no cow!" (Note the insult contained in the use of the term "cow.") He stared at me briefly, and then continued his advance. "Just kidding!" I added quickly, and hastened back to camp. Satisfied with my retreat, the bull walked away.

After almost 30 years in Tucson, I am still subject to bovine intimidation.

At this point, one might ask, "What's with the cow fixation?" Well, it is a last link to my origins as Eastern Seaboard Blue State Spawn. I believe that when one moves to a different city, state or country, one should embrace its laws, culture, etc. If one does not wish to do so, then one should reconsider the move--does it make sense to bring with one that which one is leaving?

By the way, other factors, such as the reason for the move, or one's origin, are not substantive. The principle applies to all immigrants, whether from Raleigh or Riyadh, Denver or Damascus, Wabash or Oaxaca.

So if you catch me overdressed or giving a cow an unusually wide berth (looking like those pasty-white fat guys from Chicago with the polo shirts, Bermuda shorts and overpriced athletic shoes), understand that I'm not an invader or would-be conquistador. I am just one of many immigrants from blue-state hell who is trying to do the right thing by my adopted home. I embrace our frontier culture of rugged individualism, freedom from pretense, acceptance of others--and cows.

More by Jonathan Hoffman


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