A Page on My Personal Journey Into the World of the Thumb

I don’t want to hit the cow. That just wouldn’t be polite. So instead, I hit the brakes — a tap, really — for a mere sneeze of time. But it’s enough. The cow whose nose I worried about bruising with my pickup’s headlight trots in front of my truck. So do a dozen of her friends. I am engulfed in a sea of cattle. Can’t move. Who’s the stupid cow now?




In pursuit of an MFA in creative nonfiction, I have embarked on a quest to write a book about the human thumb. Except it’s not so much about the thumb as it is about people, sub-cultures, worlds for whom the thumb is key.


Take palm reading, for example. Did you know that palm readers in India base entire readings, entire evaluations of a person’s past, present, and future on that person’s thumb? Palm readers will tell you that the thumb represents human will. Both of the palm readers with whom I have met have told me exactly that. “The thumb is will,” they say.




Stiff-knuckling the wheel over Greenhorn Summit, then switch-backing through cloud-scarved cedars, missing warm, comfortable home, I’m on my way to my third palm reader, or ‘hand analyst.’ But I’m concerned I won’t find anything worth writing about, that I’m wasting my Sunday on this 100-mile trip to meet yet another palm reader. I wonder aloud to my windshield wipers:

What am I doing?

What am I doing?

What am I doing?


As the topography transitions into rolling oak grasslands, I note what look like dirt clods in the road. Maybe a sod truck has passed through recently.


But no.


The clods are not sod and they did not travel by truck. They traveled by herd and I am staring at its backside.


“Follow directly behind me,” says the mounted cowboy who rides back to guide me through the bottleneck of cattle. “As close to the back of my horse as possible. Don’t stop.”


I stay with him a good 2/3 of the way. But then I see her, just to the right of my truck hood. She is so close. Too close …


I feel like a doof for losing the cowboy, but I’m not sorry. In fact, I’m thinking about what a classic I Love Lucy moment it is. But then, another cowboy, somewhere to starboard, calls up to my cowboy. He turns and rides toward me, scattering cattle out of my way. I continue to follow him, no inclination to tap the brakes this time. Sooner than I expect, I’m through. The cowboy waves me on. And as I resume both my automotive and mental journeys to the third hand analyst, I say to the windshield wipers, to the car stereo, the steering wheel, the odometer, to anything that will listen,

That was so cool.

That was so cool.

That was so cool.


I can’t wait to tell the hand analyst.



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