and when the cow kicked it over

so i saw this article last week, and it made me think about how i read forever in junior high. i read a lot of danielle steel in junior high, too, and i was all set to write about those sex-related books i read back then, and the skewed perspective i had about sex as a result. but then my dad told me that ryan told him that his mom reads my site. “he needs to inform me about things like that!” i said.

my dad laughed. “oh?”

“yes!” i said. “i mean, you guys read my site, but that’s okay, because you already know i’m weird. i’d rather ryan’s parents found that out in person.”

“i don’t know that you’re all that weird,” he said.

truth be told, i’m probably less weird than i’d like to think. (by the way, i never said that. you never heard those words escape my lips. if you know me in person, you will never, ever mention the fact that i said that. because i didn’t say it.) but my dad has no frame of reference when it comes to weird, as he was the one who taught me to cut pizza with scissors.

when they were little, my dad and his sister joan used to play this cow game on road trips. the game consisted of counting the number of cows you could see on your side of the car. if you saw a cemetery on your side of the car, you would lose all your cows. that’s all there was to the game, but apparently it was more entertaining than doing nothing. last weekend on the way to houston from austin, my sister megan and i played the cow game by accident.

“hey, there’s a cemetery,” megan said, pointing to the graveyard on my side of the car. “if we were playing dad and aunt joan’s game, you’d have lost all your cows.”

“dammit!” i said. disappointed at my fake loss, i started counting the cows on my side. so megan started counting the cows on her side, too, which she said was more difficult to do while driving.

it’s hard to count cows when you’re speeding past them at 70 miles per hour. we estimated most of the time: when we passed a large quantity of cows, we had to count them in approximate groups of five or ten. between austin and houston, there are a lot of cows.

“it’s funny,” megan said. “we have to guess how many when we pass big groups of them, but when we see just one or two, we count just one or two. like that one or two really matters when you think about how far off we are in our estimates.”

“that’s true,” i said, “but those one or two cows definitely count.”

“yes,” she said. “it’d be interesting if we could find out exactly how many cows we passed and compare that to our estimates to see how far off we were.”

“yeah, but we’d have to call all the farmers and say, ‘hey, how many cows do you have?'”

“and then we’d have to ask them exactly how many cows were next to the road when we drove by.”

“right? ‘hey, can you go out by the road and count how many of your cows you think you’d be able to see from 290?’ you’d have to find someone omniscient.”

it wouldn’t work, no matter what you said to the farmer over the phone. but it made me think about sunday school. in sunday school, they told us that god knows everything. they told us that he knows how many grains of sand are on any given beach. they told us that he knows exactly how many hairs are on your head.

my young (and quite literal) mind was fascinated by this idea. does god really know all that stuff? if some grains of sand on a beach wash out into the ocean, does he recalculate? if i brush my hair and some strands fall out, does he recalculate? how do i find out how many hairs are on my head right now? can i ask him today, or do i have to wait until i’m dead?

it turns out that god isn’t talking; otherwise, i’d know exactly how many cows we saw. it wouldn’t have mattered, though. in the end, megan beat me 820 to 135.