Saturday I traveled with the family beyond Orbis Mundi to a place the natives call “Brattleboro, Vermont.” There we witnessed the neo-pagan fertility ritual, “The Strolling of the Heifers.”

If you guessed that this would be Brattleboro’s gentle equivalent to Pamplona, you’d be correct. The day begins with a slow, peaceful march of mostly young cows, led mainly by the children who raise them (with their parents not far behind). They’ve been decorated with flowers and name placards, and in several cases, with creative hats. People from throughout New England watch the cows walk through town, framed by the Victorian architecture and small churches, and join the locals in applauding them. A small band of superheroes cleaned up the mess. Then came the standard parade: the procession of regional schools and agricultural programs; advocates for organic farming (so much celebration of worms!); and of course, marching bands.

Was this a mockery of the Running of the Bulls, or just a celebration of the regions dairy industries? Just like the more venerated spectacle, the Strolling of the Heifers brings together agricultural traditions, suburban life and tourism. What could the Birkenstock liberal have in common with the brigade of antique tractor drivers? There is certainly an attempt to frame a unit of local community that might seem elusive in other frames. It bridges social divides as much as it bridges historical divides, bringing pre- and post-industrial practices while shunning commercialized farming.

BTW, Elias was intrigued.

[More pictures below the fold]