Goodbye Cow is a Spanish classic by Leopoldo Alas translated in English.
This story is a satire on the so called “industrialization and modernization” of the world. It highlights how the life of people from rural areas is almost ruined to satisfy the unnecessary whims of the people in urban areas. The comfort and benefits of technology are at the expense of the rural people. It clearly demarcates the difference in the effects of modernization on the two contrasting worlds. All the comfort is for the urban world and all the suffering for the rural world.
The rural world is represented by the grassland “Somonte” which is triangular cutting of land at the base of a small hill. It’s a tranquil vista isolated from the exterior world whose peace is disturbed by the Telegraph pole and the long iron railway track which doesn’t seem to end. These two impediments represent the unknown, fearsome and mysterious world for Rosa, Pinin and the cow.
The story shows the transition in reaction of these characters towards the new elements in their surroundings. Pinin after a lot of contemplation and after having observed the pole decided that it’s harmless and mustered all his strength to climb up the pole but having realized he has come too far never dared enough to touch the top. Rosa was less intrepid but was more taken by the idea of the unknown. She was content bringing an ear close to the pole and listening to the vibrations, the formidable metallic sounds. She felt no need to understand what people in one part of the world had to say to people far-off on the opposite part of the world. She was only interested in the mystery of that sound. The cow which was much more formal than the other two and too mature to bother herself with the disturbance kept her distance from the civilized society and ate and meditated under the tranquil sky of her land.
The pole never seemed to attract her attention but her peace was disturbed on the inauguration of the railway. The first time she saw a train moving she went berserk and it kept haunting her for days before she convinced herself that the monster passes by and is not here to stay. Later she didn’t even care to notice the train when it crossed beside her. For Rosa and Pinin the passing of the train was a hysterical experience. The iron snake brought with it a strong gush of wind and faces of many strange and unknown people.
In the serene and undisturbed pastoral scene the idle days ended when the three of them returned to their house. And when the night fell Anton’s twins Pinin and Rosa finished their games and sluggishly seated themselves around the cow which was a wholesome creature. She loved them like a grandmother and patiently submitted to their games. She liked being their pillow, their saddle, their hiding place or whatever catered the kids’ fantasies. The kids loved her back equally and during times of abject bareness when the meadow was dry and arid they took her to the least grazed areas and never let anyone devoid her the pleasure of motherhood by milking her for money and letting her calves suckle her milk. The three of them were inseparable and went to incredible lengths to make each other happy.
This cow was Anton’s first and last acquisition as a pasture owner. It was their mother’s last wish that they take care of the cow as she was the lifeline of the family. But destiny had something else in store for them. Anton knew very well that the warmth and affection which a mother exudes is sought by the kids in the cow. And he found no reason of telling them about the deteriorating financial conditions of the family and the need to sell the cow. One morning the kids wake up and find that Anton and the cow are nowhere in the house and the only conjecture that came to their mind was that she has been taken to the bull. But when they came back tired, sad and covered in dust, reason dawned upon the kids that the cow wasn’t sold only because Anton didn’t get a price the Cow deserved. Anton was also fighting a continuous battle in his head a clash between love and need. His reason failed him due to his love for the cow and he was demanding a price much higher than required hoping that nobody buys her. However, the next day he became a victim of his circumstances when the landlord threatened him of evicting the house and he finally struck a deal with a butcher from Castile. The kids hung around her neck and didn’t want to let her go. The cow was mercilessly taken away from them and all they could hear was the faint tinkle of her bell. In the day that followed the meadow was no more the same without the cow, the kids gazed at the telegraph and the passing train that carried away their beloved cow. They never thought that the unknown world so far away from them will take away from them the thing they loved the most. They knew that she was about to be butchered and to be devoured by rich gluttons but all they could do was helplessly scream “Goodbye Cow” “Goodbye Cow”.
Many years passed and Pinin was called by the king to fight in the Carlist war. History repeated itself but this time it was Rosa alone in the meadow looking at the train which now took away her brother and invoked in her a distant painful memory. She knew that fate was no different for him and he will also fall prey to the rich. She looked at the railway tracks and the telegraph with extreme abhorrence and thought that this was the unknown world that took away everything. Without realizing, she put her ear near the pole but the sounds were that of death and sorrow. She sulked “Goodbye Rosa, Goodbye Pinin”