An ode to Betsy, the Hillside cow

Betsy, you’re out there somewhere, and I’m thinking of you.

The last time you were inside a pen, it was summer. Since last July, you’ve been wild and free, sleeping under the stars in the foothills of the Chugach Range.

Oh, people have tried to tame you, to coax you back into a life of leisure in captivity. You even foiled Anchorage’s finest when they came after you with drones and infrared cameras. Frustrated in his efforts to track you down, your owner called you “a very sneaky cow” who “doesn’t want to be caught.”

But who among us would, given the alternative? You traded a barn for the forests and open sky, traded regular feedings for whatever grass you could browse beneath the spruce trees. You've shamed all of us Alaskans who fancy ourselves outdoors enthusiasts by taking packing light to its furthest extreme: Packing nothing, and living off the land for half a year. Sleeping out every night with no gear, sometimes in subzero temperatures.

There’s a lot you missed while living the internet-free life in the wilderness: You missed the government shutdown. You missed the Kavanaugh hearings, the ugliness and the partisan division they exposed. You missed a thousand political attack ads before the November election. You missed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the failure of our leaders to hold his killers to account. The rest of us only wish we could say the same.

While the rest of us have suffered through the sun’s lowest ebb, spending our days in buildings, you’ve been soaking up all the light our short days will allow. You haven’t seen the inside of four walls since just after the summer solstice; I can’t even see the sky from the room where I’m writing this.

We’re sitting inside, watching Netflix and trying to take Marie Kondo’s advice about holding things in our hands and throwing them away if they don’t spark joy. You threw away everything that held you, and your life is clutter-free.


Maybe you'll someday decide regular meals are worth the pen they put you in and you'll return to your owner. Or maybe you'll stay free as long as you can, until you're dragged back to captivity or encounter a bear that's even sneakier than you. Or maybe you'll be free forever, meandering the Front Range like an Alaska Sasquatch, to the delight of hikers and skiers and fat-bikers for years to come.

However this all turns out, you’ll have a heck of a story. I don’t think I’m the only one who wishes he could hear you tell it.

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Tom Hewitt

Tom Hewitt is opinions editor of the ADN. He previously was editorial page editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and news director of KTVF and KXDF in Fairbanks.