In the back seat of the old green Dodge, still wearing our pajamas, we laugh and count too loud, try to drown each other out when the road meanders between two cow-filled fields. Twelve! My brother shouts. A moment later, I counter with Fifteen! Dad calls this game “Cow Poker”. The rural route to our grandparents’ farm affords both of us many chances to count the cows roaming in the pastures on our own side of the road.

These days, I see crammed feedlots, too hard to count. Dusty steers await their feed—and their time. And in between the feed yards, roadside billboards tout the idea of happy cows: cows sporting Stetsons above toothy grins; boot-clad, square-dancing cows at a hoe-down; a quartet harmonizing beside a brook. Happy cows. Happy slogans. “Our cows are happy for a reason!” “Bovine bliss is the way to go!” As if a human might know what cattle find delightful. As if, just around the next bend my same eyes would not see another billboard, this time shouting, “Happy cows make happy steaks!”