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I have a tell-me-your-story face. Complete strangers walk up to me and tell me the darnedest things. The first time I recall it happening was when I was 16 years old and working in a frozen yogurt shop. A customer placed her order and told me, in great detail, about her colostomy bag and the benefits she believed frozen yogurt had on her conditions. These conversations never happened to my teenaged co-workers.

Around Christmastime in Bentonville a few years back, a gal pushed her buggy near me in the Walmart and began relating all the intricacies of her multiple Christmas trees at home -- how they were decorated, where she puts them, how she changes them each year. At first, I thought she had mistaken me for someone else, what with the familiar way she conversed without introduction. But no, she didn't know me from Adam, and that was of little importance to her. Tinsel was on her mind, and I was in her line of sight, so that was enough for her.

Strangers on airplanes share dark secrets. Cashiers tell about their angina, gout and children's expulsions from school.

But the conversation that took place the other day might just clinch the pennant for stranger-danger overshares. A lady I'd never met approached me, looked me square in the eyes and announced that no one can pet a cow.

I considered the comment, chewed on a few responses, and finally said, "Come again?"

"I thought I heard a man over there say that he'd petted a cow. You can't pet cows," she said, as though this reasonably explained our conversation.

I nodded, tapped my foot a time or three, and took the bait.

"Actually," I began, "you can. My uncle and I do it all the time. We ride out to the pasture with a grain bucket and call the cows. They come running. It's where we have some of our best conversations, just sitting in the field, scratching cattle and feeding them apple biscuits."

"But you can't pet them like a dog!"

"Sure you can. They aren't as different as you'd think. You get to know them, see how smart they are, have them nuzzle you or take a bottle of milk from your hand, you might think twice about that cheeseburger you eat. It's hard processing them once you know their names."

Now I was the oversharer. She shook her head and walked away, unconvinced.

I thought about my last statement to her. Things do change when you know someone's name. Maybe that's the comfort in talking with someone you don't know and are unlikely to see again. I appear to be just approachable enough to not be a serial killer and just feral enough to not follow you home. It's a perfect blend. I could start a sidewalk stand like Lucy in the "Peanuts" comic strip: "Tell Me Your Story -- 5 Cents."

Add some yogurt, Christmas lights and a cow, and I could milk this for all it's worth.

NAN Our Town on 08/29/2019

Print Headline: You can't pet a cow, she said

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