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Today I'm going to talk about something I learned this week.

But first I want to tell you about my trip out to Dugway on past Wednesday.

I know! Dugway! How often do ordinary civilians like me get the chance to visit the base out there? So when I was invited to give a presentation for the Utah Humanities Council at the post library, I saluted and said, yes, sir! (Snappily.)

I was excited to visit Dugway for a number of reasons. When our family moved from Utah to New York state, I assumed I'd miss the view of mountains to the east. As it turned out what I really missed was the view of desert to the west. Hemmed in by thick towering trees everywhere I looked in New York, I yearned for wide open spaces. I yearned for an ocean of sage and a sea of sky meeting at the shoreline of some distant horizon.

So, yeah. do like the desert. And I looked forward to driving through Skull Valley in the wheat-colored light of late afternoon. Besides, I could get a column out of the experience, right? I could write about the ghost town Iosepa — that unlikely and ill-fated Polynesian settlement north of DPG. It would be a melancholy column to match my wintry melancholy mood. Something about the death of dreams and so forth.

But while I was driving I got all distracted by cows. Who knew there were so many cows in Skull Valley? Cows to the left of me! Cows to the right! There I was, stuck in the middle with cows!

So then I started thinking about cows and how it might be fun to own one. It's true they're kinda stupid. But then I don't necessarily value intelligence in an animal above all else, unlike certain border collie owners who are always way happy to point out their dog is on the honor roll while your kid is not. Besides, what evidence do they have that their border collie is smarter than your kid? That their dog can jump into the air and catch a Frisbee with its mouth? Please.

But whatever. The point is I thought a cow might be fun to own because you know how cows are — sweet and gentle and full of potential ice cream.

At any rate, I arrived at Dugway, did my presentation, and met some very nice people in the process. In fact, these people were so nice they warned me to be careful on my drive home.

Okay. When they first started to warn me, I thought they were going to say, "Watch out for aliens." In fact, that's what I hoped they were going to say because hey! I could totally get a good column out of that! But instead they said, "Watch out for cows."

Seriously? They wanted me to watch out for cows? Didn't they know that cows are our friends?

Except not so much in the dead of night, as it turns out. My new Dugway friends were right. Those same black Angus cows that seem so happy and cheerful by the light of day suddenly feel sinister and menacing standing darkly on the side of the road. You feel like an interloper stumbling onto gang turf and that at any minute those cows are gonna jump you in the middle of the street, just like the Jets and the Sharks. Only in this case, they would be the Cow Jets and the Cow Sharks. And also they wouldn't be wearing tight pants.

Anyway. Back to the beginning. What did I learn this week? I could say I learned that things don't always turn out the way you think they will. Like, for instance, you think you're going to miss the mountains but instead you miss the desert. Or you think you might write a moody column about Iosepa and instead you write about livestock. A lot of life is like that, actually. Surprising.

But here's what I actually learned, you guys: Cows can be scary.

Ann Cannon can be reached at