The Golden Calf Funeral Home
The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home says it’s haunted by one of Christopher Columbus’s original cows. He says her name is Isabella and that you can hear her mooing out in the vestibule among the antique couches and plastic magnolias. He’s got a painting of her hanging up above the podium where you sign the guest book.
The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home’s name is Ralph, and we mostly agree that he is full of shit. He found the cow skull when they expanded the hearse garage, and he took it over to the community college to have it tested. It was a big to-do. There were reporters from the state capital and sweater-wearing bald men from NPR and the Smithsonian even sent a woman down in a Buick but she said the Days Inn had bedbugs and left. The town historical society paid to have one of those metal markers put on the side of the hearse garage, but it was so shady back there and the print so small that only people from out of town ever bothered to read it.
Now we aren’t saying that the community college is also full of shit. They do charge $475 for a class on the harmonica, but we’re not saying they’re full of shit. Maybe Isabella rode over with Columbus in 1492, swam to the mainland as fast as her hooves would allow, and walked a thousand miles northwest to the Great Smoky Mountains. Maybe she dodged snakes and swamp and hungry Italians and three kinds of bear, just to die at the foot of Jaybird Hill. Maybe she waited there for 500 years for Ralph’s grandson to find her with a backhoe.
Ralph’s grandson says if your loved one has a message to you from beyond the grave, you can see their face drawn out in Isabella’s painted ribs. Jimmy Cantrell says this is cow shit. He’s lost four cousins, a brother, both parents, and three grandmothers, all embalmed at the Golden Calf, and he’s never seen any faces. Wouldn’t at least one out of all that family have something to say?
Out of respect, those of us who’ve seen faces don’t mention it.
Wendy Dinwiddie. Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.