THE STRANGER DECIDED to change the topic.
"Is that your cow, in the pasture over there?"
"Has it ever occurred to you to wonder, where something as marvelous at that beast came from? How it should exist at all?"
"But surely you can't be completely devoid of curiosity about the fundamental questions?"
"I find it hard to make a puzzle where I already know the answer."
"I may be wasting my time then. Is it possible you are acquainted with The Creator already? Perhaps under a different name?"
"If by "The Creator" you mean that cow's mother, I am."
"Ah, sir, I see that I have not been clear. Yes, certainly that cow was 'created', if you like, by its mother. I was speaking of more fundamental matters."
"Hard to imagine something more 'fundamental' than that."
"Let me take another tack. Do you own a watch, sir?"
"I'll not be giving it to you."
"I'm not asking you for your watch. I merely want to talk about it."
"Talk away then."
"If I came upon your watch, say lying in the road, and saw it for the first time, what do you guess I would think?"
"You would think some fool couldn't take proper care of a watch."
"What I mean is, would I not think that the watch had a maker?"
"Most watches do."
"Exactly. And what about this fence?"
"What about it?"
"Is it not obvious that it is beautifully designed?"
"I'll take the compliment."
"Both the watch and the fence are carefully and beautifully designed, and in both cases, this implies a designer?"
"But is not the cow also beautifully designed?"
"She's a beautiful animal, certainly."
"And does that not imply that it had a designer, just as the fence and the watch did?"
"Ah. I ken the source of your confusion now, lad."
"But I'm not confused."
"It's the nature of the truly confused to think they're not. Tell me, lad, if you took my watch apart, into all its separate pieces, then put it back together again, would it still tick?"
"If I was careful enough it would."
"Aye. And if ye did the same to my cow?"
"It would be dead."
"Aye, she would. And if ye look closely enough, you'll notice a great many other differences between a cow and a watch."
"I suppose I would, but..."
"And one of those many differences is that a cow can make another cow, but a watch can't make another watch."
"Well, yes. But I wasn't talking about that cow in particular. I was talking about the first cow. The one that started it all."
"And what makes you think there had to be a first cow?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"Perhaps it is to yer marvelous scholars in your fancy city. But we're ordinary people around here. I keep a book in the house, tracking the weather from year to year. I use it to plan when to plant, and when to harvest. It's not perfect, ye ken, but you'd be surprised how much one year is like another."
"So you really believe that there have always been cows like yours—as far back as the beginning of time?"
The farmer paused.
"Well, now, that's one possibility, and I hadn't really thought this through before, but it occurs to me that there's another."