The sun streamed in through the easterly windows with a blinding brilliance, especially for 5:45am. Accompanying the sun came the morning cry from M demanding to be released from his crib. It’s May 1st, which is important to us for three reasons. First, solidarity with the workers of the world!! Second, it is the Almhult Disc Klubb’s season opener tournament. Third, the cows too were to be released this day.
Kids are up and the family is fed and outside by 8am to play in the sun. Once the clock ticks off 90 minutes, I find myself at Almhult’s disc golf bana warming up for the paired tournament. I am randomly matched with an experienced and consistently solid player and am a bit nervous about not being the rookie pulling our score down. Instead, I play very well working to match his skill level and in the end we took third place…maybe out of only four teams; but we still finished one under par. More importantly, it was a beautiful day on the course with hardly a cloud in the blue sky, the sun shining through the still leafless trees, and not a hint of wind.
Back at home, both boys and one wife were finishing up some quality naptime. All are roused out of their midday siesta so that we can meet up with friends at the “Releasing of the Cows”. Throughout Sweden, as spring finally fully asserts itself, the various farms around the country will host cow release events. We found ourselves at a very quint farm outside of the rural village of Pjatteryd, the sun is still shining and the air is warm and this farmer’s field is turned into a parking lot as locals from all over the surrounding communities come to witness the spectacle of the release.
The farm has a strong 4H county fair feel. We went and looked at the pigs, moved past the classic red barn cum korv (sausage) grill-pit, to the lambs and then into another large barn where the farm’s cows have been penned in all winter. There were horse rides, tractors and hay bales to climb over, and multiple fika stands with your choice of korv or bullar (cinnamon rolls). Families mixed and mingled, greeting old friends and catching up on local news/gossip. Many families settled down in the fields with blankets communally sharing homemade fika and kaffe. But, as 2:30pm approached, the crowd wound itself down around the cow barn, lining a roped off area where the cows would be released to. This would be their first day out of the barn since the cold winds brought the snow and frozen earth back in December.
The press of the crowd grew as the appointed release time inched closer. I had found a clear spot on the fence at the far end where K and M were positioned to greet the cows. (Though honestly M seemed much more interested in all of the dogs that various families brought, as well as the few tall hay stocks still sticking out of the ground.) Not having experienced this before, S and I were hoping for a great big rush of bovine fury stampeding down the boulder-strewn field; but, we also anticipated a more likely scenario of gentle cattle mooing out of the barn to lazily maw on the grass. The reality fit somewhere in between, but was actually closer to our hoped for vision. The first cow emerged with a small flare and kick, but instead of charging down the field, it stopped and rolled its head back and forth over a rock near the door. I suppose there is nothing like a good field rock to get that four-month winter itch out of your neck. But soon, the rest of the brown cows, young and old, were pushing their way out into the field; and while they did bunch up close to the barn at first, soon they were actually charging down the field. They ran at start and stops. Some jumped and bucked, while others crouched and scratched. Some of the bigger cows took this time as an opportunity to get out some of the pent up frustration they had by challenging each other and performing what I believe is very similar to a sumo wrestling match.
K and M loved it and shouted and cheered at the cows. The entire roped off area was surrounded by kids; laughing, shouting, and giggling away at the frenzied antics of the cows as they jumped and pranced, rolled and rushed in their newly acquired freedom from the barn. But soon, it was time to retreat either back to the cars for the drive home, or to a blanket spread of a yummy fika picnic. We lingered on a bit longer, taking in the cows, stopping to look at the horses again, and to say thanks to our friends that invited us along to this very local festival. As we walked back across the large field to our parked car, we reflected that this was a real genuine local celebration. A celebration of spring, of being released from the doldrums of winter into the shining sun of summer to come. While still not feeling like locals at all, we did happen upon numerous friends and folks that we knew from our town of Almhult. This was a moment to take a break from the workweek and the routines that run our lives and to meet and greet and celebrate our own release, as well as the release of the cows.