Veronique Greenwood in Aeon:
From time to time, a hiker through the Swiss Alps might witness a startling sight. First, the sound of a helicopter reverberates off the valley walls. Then the chopper appears, a long cable hanging from its belly. When the burden at the end of the cable heaves into view, it is not a rescued mountaineer, en route to the hospital. Nor is it a pot of cement or a pallet of planks, on the way to a high-mountain building project.
It is a single cow, hanging gently from a harness, her dark eyes alert, her hooves high above the ground.
When the scene is breathlessly described to a Swiss person, the response seems to be incredulity — at your amazement. The cow was hurt. It probably twisted its ankle in the high meadows, and needed to get to a vet. Of course they used a helicopter! It’s the right thing to do.
This could be a postcard from the future.
This is the Valais — a canton, or Swiss state, known for its milk, cheeses, wine, apricots, and beef. It is one of the largest of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, about the size of Delaware, in a country no larger than Connecticut and Massachusetts put together. In practice, much of that land area is consumed by some of the tallest mountains on the continent.