Cattle Drives in Down East Maine

A cowboy with his herd in Maine, en route to Turkey. (courtesy Quoddy Tides)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Last night my wife Deb put up a report called “Little Town, Big Art.” It’s about how a surprisingly ambitious effort in The Arts—painting, sculpture, photography, drama, music, festivals (like the Pirate Festival underway this weekend), etc.—had given a very small place a much larger economic and cultural presence than it would otherwise have.

Here is a follow-up note on a less artsy aspect of that same place, Eastport, Maine. As I mentioned in this item, “The World Comes to a Tiny Town,” one of the ways in which this part of Down East Maine was connected to the world was by shipping pregnant cows across the Atlantic, mainly to Turkey. That business has become yet another casualty of the horrific warfare in Syria and its spillover effects into Turkey.

Bob Godfrey of Eastport, one of whose careers has been as a photographer, sends an email about the kind of surprise the pregnant cattle brought to his town:

In my Indiana photography business my largest client was an animal pharmaceutical company. As a result, I did a lot of photography of cattle. Little did I know that in Eastport tens of thousands of head of cattle would pass through this tiny place.

One day a couple of years ago I was having coffee, facing the window at the Happy Crab, when I noticed a black Angus running past the library! I was not drinking Irish coffee.

A cowboy showed up at the shore walk next to the WaCo Diner, threw the cow, and hogtied it. Several men rolled the animal onto a pallet, a fork lift raised the pallet onto a flatbed trailer, and the critter was trucked back to the port.

Apparently, even cattle can have second thoughts about crossing the ocean.

His note was titled “the Reluctant Bovine Sailor.” No larger point, just part of the surprises of our vast country—and a reason to point again to Deb’s new piece. Good wishes to Eastporters for this weekend’s Pirate Festival.

The cow’s intended getaway route, past the Peavey Library at the left. (James Fallows)