Maureen was first to spot them, a column of small figures descending from the mustering point. "They' coming!" she cried and we scrambled to our feet. Nearby a young mother retrieved her infant from the droveway out of the cows' path. Cries of excitement went up from the crowd.
They came past, with the adorned cows leading and the others kept behind. Each cow was led by the farmer. It was no light task, for each cow weighed much more than a man. There were occasions when the farmer had to physically grapple with the cow when it strayed, and I saw the muscle required for the job.There were sturdy men driving large beasts. The men were not in national dress, for this was a heavy job that required work clothes.
Yet women and children accompanied them down One matron carried a conical wicker basket on her back as she strode authoritatively down to the ring in her Tirolean dress. I was later to see her retrieving her cow's horn adornment to carry home in the basket.She acquired a role giving out the contestants' numbers to them. I get the feeling that she liked to organise. I saw children in the ranks, herding the unadorned cows down. One girl of about eleven impressed me with her control of cattle, and she too walked in national costume, but to be fair she had a brother of about thirteen who did just as well.
As the languages in which the proceedings were carried out were French, German and the local language Ladin, I could not tell you much about what the judge said, but we saw the cattle parading the ring displaying their adornments. One was adorned with the Catholic symbol IHS [Iesu Hoc Sacramentum] and this pleased me, though she did not win.
The cheers went up as the first, second and third were decided. I think that the matron's entry came second and the impressive pair of children came third. The cows were paraded again led by the three winners. then all dispersed and the ceremony was over.
As one who loves country shows it was a lovely day for me, and Maureen has read it over to see how far it conforms to her experience. Tradition is a wonderful thing that enriches our lives. For a day I was privileged to be a spectator, but when I applauded I became for a brief moment a participant in the tradition.