The Cow Whisperer

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Well, we have had quite the adventure over the weekend.  Kind of a long story, but here it is.  We live in a very rural area on what some people might call a “Gentleman’s Ranch”.  In other words, we have 17 acres to give us a buffer between the neighbors, who we love for the most part, but don’t want to live in their pocket and to know every time they have a marital spat.  We also enjoy the country lifestyle, but that comes with its own set of challenges.  For instance, our only choice for things like Internet service or television is to choose a satellite-based company.  A couple of months ago, my wonderful husband was accosted by a TV satellite provider while we were shopping at Costco (another challenge…the nearest Costco being a 60-mile one way trip).  He succumbed to their sales pitch, and shortly thereafter we had changed over from our previous provider, who we were really pretty happy with, but we had older equipment that didn’t have the latest bells and whistles.  Just a week or so before the final NFL playoff games that occurred on, Sunday, we lost the channel that the playoffs were going to be shown on due to negotiation issues with our provider and the channel.  This really upset dear hubby because he is a big football fan.  So we shopped around among our local friends to see who had our old TV provider, and turns out our pastor did.  So we invited ourselves over for football Sunday afternoon and evening.  Since I am not interested at all in football, the pastor’s wife invited me to bring my sewing machine.  She and her daughters have learned to quilt in the last few years, so we were going to quilt while the guys watched football.  Of course we never actually did, because we didn’t want to clear the vast array of yummy snacks off the dining room/quilting table.  Hey, some things DO take priority over quilting occasionally.  Now the pastor and his family live at the back of beyond that makes our rural area look like a big city by comparison.  One has to drive several miles up a couple of dirt “roads”, which were a bit rough, to say the least, since our normally dry area has had nearly 8 inches of rain in January, and they have had over 13 inches being up in the hills, and of course the heaviest rain day this last week happened on Sunday.  Our average annual rainfall is in the 16 inch area, but we have had much less in the last few years because of the much-talked about California drought that has occurred. Since they are so far back, there is absolutely no cell phone service at their house, so we just turn our phones off to save the batteries.

Now another little detail you need to know is we raise a couple of steers every few years to provide our own organically grown, grass fed beef as well as brush control for our pasture since we live in danger of wildfires.  We buy our young steers from a nearby friend named Lester who is a memer of one of the founding families of this area and grew up on and now runs the family’s cattle ranch.  In fact, since he lives less than a mile away, we consider him one of our next door neighbors since that’s the way we measure these things out in the country.  We’ve had these steers for less than a year, and it takes 18 months to two years to bring them up to “harvest” weight ( okay, I grew up as a city girl and can’t bring myself to talk about what really happens.   I call it going to the big freezer in the sky).  We always name our steers Yummy and Delicious.  We are on Yummy and Delicious No. 4 at the present time.  The photo below is one of our previous Yummys and is taken looking to the East towards our neighbor’s fall-painted vineyard.

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We enjoyed our visit with the pastor and his family, even though evidently the wrong teams won, and headed home in the pouring rain around 7 P.M.  When we got back to the valley we live in, I turned my cell phone back on and found I had two voice mails.  Both of them were from a friend and neighbor that lives on the road behind us and down a mile or so.  Directly behind us is an abandoned 20 acre parcel that divides our property from that road and runs all along the south side of our pasture.  The first message was that she was driving East and had seen that what she thought was our pasture fence was down in the corner and our steers were standing just inside.  The second message was that she was headed back home and that the steers were now on the road.  Both messages were left between 4:30 and 5, so by the time we got it, it had been nearly 3 hours.  It was really kind of terrifying because the road to the north of our property is a very busy highway that is separated from our property by a 7 acre empty parcel and we were very concerned that our cattle would get out on that road and someone could get killed if they ran into a 900 pound black cow on a dark, rainy night.  So I immediately called in prayer support, and called over to Lester’s house to see if they would help us look for the cattle.  Lester was already sound asleep, but his wife said she would go out and look around to see if she could find anything near their property, but didn’t sound encouraging, saying that they had probably bedded down somewhere for the night and it would be impossible to see them in the dark.  But she said that we would probably find them nearby in the morning because they don’t tend to wander too far from their home territory.  In the meantime I was in contact with the neighbor that had seen them to get more details, and she and her husband then joined us in the search.  They showed us where the fence was down, which was really the fence for the property behind ours, and my husband had checked our fence and only found an area where the wire was loose, but not really down.  And then we found more hoof prints across the road in the mud and then lost all track of prints or clues to where they might have gone, driving up and down and checking every property that had an open gate and a driveway that wasn’t paved.  Keep in mind that it is still raining and my husband is just recovering from pneumonia.  After about an hour and a half, we had to give up for the night.

After a nearly sleepless night imagining all the awful things that could happen, we were up before dawn, and hit the road again. I called the pastor and woke him up at 6 AM since he’d offered to come help.  (He is still taking my calls after that, by the way, modeling forgiveness.) Lester and his wife were also out in their truck looking, and when I ran into them they said they thought they had spotted the runaways up a dirt road that leads to our immediate neighbor to the west. They were going to the main busy road  to see if they could see better from that angle.  I was in my passenger car and didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, so I called hubby with his 4-wheel drive truck to come drive up the muddy dirt road and check it out, and sure enough, they were in our neighbor’s pasture.  There is a vacant 20 acre parcel between us and that neighbor plus some large trees, so we can’t see his pasture from our property. We didn’t actually know the neighbors over that way, so there was no one we could call on the phone to check with.  Well, we know them now. The relief and thankfulness to God we felt was indescribable.

Lester went to get one of his cattle trailers, but said he had no idea how we were going to herd them into it.  But we had a surprise for Lester.  We have always spoiled our “boys” by offering them stale bread and excess, not quite human consumption worthy produce from our garden.  And we have trained them to come get these goodies by calling, “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.”  Even if they are at the far side of the pasture, they will come running to see who can get there first.  They will even let us scratch their foreheads a little (but they won’t let us give them belly rubs like we used to do to our dogs). Lester absolutely scoffed at the notion, but hubby came prepared with a bucket of stale bread.  He went into the pasture with it, and started offering it to the boys, calling like we always do, trying to coax them into the lane leading to the trailer.  We had four people besides my husband standing by and our truck blocking one end of the lane with the trailer parked and ready at the other end.  Sure enough, and to Lester’s amazement, hubby coaxed the boys out into the lane.  The hardest part was getting them to go past the huge puddle in the middle of the lane, but once he accomplished that, it was a clear shot into the back of the trailer.  He backed right up into the trailer and first Yummy and then Delicious followed him in.  And we slammed the trailer door shut behind them. The rest of us had been following behind carrying a large beam that was laying around so that if they turned around, there was no where to go.  Lester let hubby out the small walk-through door at the front side of the trailer and then the life-long cattleman said, “I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

Here’s a photo I captured with my phone while they were following hubby like the pied piper towards the trailer.  The neighbor’s horse to the right seemed very interested in the proceedings. cow-whisperer-cropped-close

So now my husband is not only my Quilter’s Support Staff, he is also the Cow Whisperer.  After we got them safely delivered back into their home pasture, hubby, the pastor and myself went to check out the section of fencing where it was suspected they had escaped through.  They had indeed pushed the staples holding the lower hog wire part of the fence (the upper portion being barbed wire) out. They had evidently been pushing it for some time, nibbling at a buckwheat bush growing on the other side, and it finally let loose enough for them to just step through.  I guess the bush on the other side of the fence is always greener, to paraphrase the old adage.  The fence is now repaired and strengthened and the bush totally removed to avoid further temptation.  Of course, it started raining lightly and continued until the repairs were complete, and then it broke out in blue skies.  Timing is everything, which was proven by the weather first thing this morning.  If this all had happened starting on Monday instead of Sunday, we would have woken up socked in by the thick fog this morning which would have prevented us from spotting our runaways from a distance like we were able to do yesterday.  If it had to happen, I am grateful to God that it happened when it did instead of a day later, plus, now we know another neighbor.

 

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