Did We Get The Cows Back In?
Today I'm sharing about one of the craziest adventures I have ever had on the farm from the early days.
Five years ago Mariah and I were doing lots of different things to try to keep the farm financially viable (stay in business :). Some of those things turned out great and others make great stories to chuckle about in the comfort of ones home after dinner with friends.
This is one of those stories.
At the time we had agreed to graze some cattle for a very nice older gentleman from out of state whom we had never met.
He assured us these were good gentle cows, best he had every had.
Haha lets just say there are different definitions of "good" and "gentle."
When I heard those words I thought of our own cattle. They came when they were called and a half dozen would nearly let you pet them on a whim. I knew what gentle cows were and so his description sounded like just the cattle we would like to care for.
We were in for quite a shock....
When the cows arrived (Midnight on New Years Eve) they seemed a little jumpy but hey its dark and they have been on a trailer for hours; nevertheless I had a slightly worried feeling about these "gentle" cows.
The next day my worst fears were confirmed.
They were wild. They bolted at the site of humans, they ran everywhere they went in a panic, and they had some practice in the arcane cow art of jumping fences.
But when you are young and broke you make do with what you have got.
We gradually acquainted them with our presence, taught them (at least most of them)to respect our portable fences and kinda got them to follow us (they would still run away if we walked towards them though).
After several months, we had made a lot of progress and felt that this wild herd was finally ready for their first real test - working them in the corral.
This would involve getting them up (no small task), sorting them, and finally giving identifying tags to their young calves.
After much preparation, Mariah and I gathered a small band of our college friends and began one of the most memorable days on the farm ever.
The initial roundup went far smoother than expected.
Someone gently called the cows and they followed pretty well across a woody field and uphill along a long lane. The rest of us (myself included) gently followed the cows from behind coaxing them along.
I had had fears of spooked cows jumping fences or stampeding somewhere but as the last few cows slowly made their way up the lane and into the corral I gave a great sigh of relief that things had gone so uneventfully well.
As I watched up ahead the cows already in the corral were excitedly running around a small shed located in the center. Like a small racetrack the cows racked up laps as the stragglers slowly joined them through an open gate from the lane.
And then things and the cows took a turn for the worse!
Out of the corner of my eye I watched as the the cows on the "race track" seemed to take a new turn - out a small exterior gate of the corral that opened to a gravel road and an open yard around a house.
In shock I watched as over 100 mostly wild cows ran out the gate and my perfect day turned into a disaster.
Once outside the gate, a wide paradise lay before them.
A lush green yard, a small unfenced hay field and then a county road and across it several hundred acres of the neighbors unfenced row crop field planted in lush green cereal rye, and beyond that F highway and all the undoubtedly fascinating places that could lead a group of wild curious cows.
We jumped the fence that made up the lane and desperately tried to stop the now running cows from making it to the county road and the field of rye beyond.
Temporarily sidetracked by the lush lawn of the house we were stunningly able to round up about 80 of the cows and gently coax them back into the corral.
They then promptly turned and ran back down the lane we had called them up through to the corral along with the stragglers who never made it to the corral - but at least they were on the farm!
I then turned my focus to the 20+ cows who had hit the county road before we could stop them.
In dismay I saw the wildest 7 or so cows thunder down the road towards F highway (about a mile away).
Desperately I had one of my friends jump in their car and drive a different route (well above the speed limit) to try to get to F highway before those wild cows did.
Focussing on what I could still control I and a few friends began a slow encirclement of the remaining cows that were only a 100 yards down the road contentedly grazing the road ditches.
Taking full advantage of the tall field of cereal rye, we half walked half crawled in a semi circle trying to gradually get behind the cows so we could coax them back up the road and towards the corral.
I can distinctly remember the damp earth beneath me and the tickle of the rye stalks on my cheek as I gradually raised my head above the level of the rye to see exactly where the cows were.
Grueling minutes passed as we moved slowly through the rye repeating the process of slowly spying on the cow's position.
The thought (however inaccurate) that this must have been what the Native Americans and pioneers felt like as they stalked herds of buffalo passed through my mind more than once.
At last we were behind the cows and though startled to see us emerge from the tall grass, they amiable trotted back towards the corral.
About this time I got a call from my friend on F highway who informed me that he had arrived before the cows and was now slowly following them back along the county road towards the corral (about a mile away).
We assumed new positions in the rye field (there was no fence along the county road so we didn't want these wild cows to take a side trip).
After about 20 minutes the wild cows trotted into view and began to move along the road towards the coral.
As we made our presence known they reacted much more violently and bolted towards the coral but by the mercy of the Lord they did not jump our short portable fence along the neighbors yard and instead thundered through a gate into the corral.
Four hours after I was remarking how perfectly things were going, we had the cows once again back on our farm.
We then tried to round up the cows and get them back to the coral (they had all run back down the lane and were now spread across one of our fields) so we could accomplish our actual goal for the day, and we were remarkable successful.
Only one cow and her calf eluded our attempts to coax her back to the corral.
After several tries she charged one of my friends and chased him up a tree.
We didn't bother her any more after that.
My memory gets pretty fuzzy after that. Though I have been told that we did indeed work the cows, sort them and give I.D. tags to the calves.
I do remember trying to get a rough count on the cows and realizing how difficult it is to count a bunch of wild cows that are running in circles.
It was decided that we were pretty sure we had gotten all of them back in.
Our count was right about at the number we were supposed to have sometimes 1 below sometimes 1 above.
We canvassed the surrounding fields and roads and never heard of a "wild cow siting."
So did we get the cows back in?
They were at least back on the farm, but it was over a year before we were able to get that wild charging cow out of her field and into the corral.
I learned lots of lessons that day.
Foremost of them all - make sure your gates are shut :)
All those cows have been gone for years now but every once in a while after a hard day I think back on that experience, chuckle, and say a prayer of thanks.