I was getting married in three days. My nails were done. They looked so nice. My soon to be husband was feeding for me so that I could stay pristine (the struggle is REAL), and I just had to go and ruin it. How do you ask? Oh, let me tell you the tale:
I stopped by the farm to drop some wedding stuff off and glanced at the fencer. The tiny check mark that symbolizes a short was flashing with a vengeance. Tick, tick, #itch. You’ve got a problem. I walked around to see if the weaned calves had shorted the fence out again, a somewhat frequent occurrence given my substandard fence building skills. They hadn’t, but as I did a quick head count I noticed a problem, where oh where was lucky number 16? I walked around the fence, my capri pants and slip on shoes not giving me much protection from the weeds and mud. It had rained the night before and was looking to do so again, and soon. Because of course it was. Why the F not. This stuff never happens when it is 70 degrees and sunny.
I saw the heifer grazing by herself in the top rotational paddock, fortunately the main herd was on the other side of the rotation (which happens to be seven parallel paddocks that run perpendicular to an aisle down a hill – important later). With a heavy sigh, and a quick glance up at the oncoming clouds I entered the paddock and began to give chase. It should have been easy. She fell out of the fence, so she should jump right back in, right? Wrong. She ran to the corner and I gently urged her back with her friends. She ran past me, and I panicked thinking that she might run out to rejoin the herd (to become her future calf’s sister mom if her daddy had anything to say about it – she is starting to be “that age” when a bull starts to notice her sweet brown eyes… anyways…)
I ran to cut her off, and running is not my thing. We repeated the run about a hundred times. Back and forth. Back and forth. I got a stitch in my side. My aggravation with the situation started to ratchet up. She started bellering with all her considerable lung capacity – “Mrrrroooo MrrrrroooooOooo!” I started yelling back, “Go back to your new herd you stupid heifer!” It kept up. I got more pissed by the minute. Sweat was running down my back, weeds were cutting my legs, and the mother flipping sonnofabitching heifer was NOT cooperating. Ugh.
The main herd started to pay attention. I panicked and yelled: “Stop calling for your mother! She doesn’t love you anymore! She has a new baby now!” I chased her back towards the fence. Hell, I even grabbed the fence and laid it down for her, but of course, she wouldn’t go through. The rest of the calves came up and thought about coming out, but this basic B would not cross the freaking fence.
I grabbed my phone as the thunder rolled. “Eric, we have a calf out.” “No I can’t get her in. Don’t you think I tried that?” Frustration gave me what I like to think was an edge to my voice like Liam Neeson in Taken or something, instead I am pretty sure it came off as hysteria. Which was not what I was going for. He said he was on his way, so I started out to try to find the short, at dusk with no flashlight and the rain starting to come down. My legs quickly became covered with seed heads as I wandered along the perimeter fence checking each insulator to see if it was off. I reached the paddock with the cows and my usually docile animals decided to channel their inner buffalo and started charging en masse at me. My inner voice mumbled, “This is it. I’m going to die here.”
I plodded along, too pissed to care, as the herd milled around me with murder on their mind. I finished my perimeter check, still finding no short and no power to the fence and started walking along the top end of the paddock when Eric called. He was here, where was I? I started trudging up towards the gate. Surely if I wasn’t in the aisle the cows would just stay down here and eat like good cows. Oh, but no.
I was about halfway up the hill when I heard them start to come, hooves sucking in the slick clay as they headed for the top of the aisle, where their presence would cause the calf to break out of the paddock and rejoin them. I couldn’t let that happen. I fell to the ground and shimmied under the “dead” fence, only to have it light up the wet back of my shirt while I was on my belly in the mud and shock the ever loving muck out of me. Which of course caused me to spasm and throw myself out of my army crawl into an ungainly sprawl right in the middle of a couple piles of manure. I leapt to my feet, wiped God knows what off my face and sprinted for a slinky gate to hold the herd back. I made it just in time. I mean, just in time. I no sooner got the gate pulled taut than the herd skidded to an angry stop.
I slogged up the hill, my feet slipping out from under me with every other step. The rain wasn’t coming down hard enough to wash me off, just hard enough to turn everything into a God damned mess. I got to the top of the hill and glowered at Eric, who had the good grace not to laugh in my face as I explained what happened. Which was wise. I would have probably attacked. Frustration does not bring out the best in me. My grandma would be so ashamed.
We got to work with the heifer. Again we went back and forth, back and forth. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one frustrated now when I saw Eric’s iPhone “flashlight” spin off into the night as he winged it at the heifer when she ran past him. He started to yell obscenities.
“I told her her mama doesn’t love her anymore.” I added to the string helpfully as he ran by. It was dark so I couldn’t see his look of what I am sure was appreciation. He jogged past me and the 50’ span of fence I had laid down so the heifer could go through. Her little calf friends were all lined up on their side of the fence, so I couldn’t leave my post or EVERYONE would be out. I watched the bouncing light run circles around the paddock after the heifer, and I patrolled my man made hole in the fence.
My phone rang; my buddy John had called. “Call you back. Cow out.” Click.
After another fifteen minutes, or years – it felt like years, we got her back in. Eric left to go finish feeding and I called John back and started relating my tale to him as I tried to make it down the giant slip and slide that was the aisle without falling down again in order to release the herd from containment. His response? “Well, I had called to complain, but I can’t do that now.” Yeah, that’s right John. You ever want to feel better about your life choices? Call me. Call me when the cows are out and it is now ten o’clock at night and I have freshly manicured nails that are now shoved full of manure and clay and I haven’t had dinner, and I am covered in literal shit and have to drive home. In my freshly cleaned car. That I have to ride in in my wedding dress. Can we all just say muck with a capital F? Hmm?
So I of course do what anyone would do and strip down to my bra and underwear to drive home so I don’t get my car dirty. Which is fine, and a great plan until I get to the bottom of the driveway and see the gates. Which I have to close. That are next to a highway, with traffic.
And my bra and panties don’t even match…
So I wait for a lull in the traffic and run out to try to shut one gate, and dart back in the car so that I don’t get slapped with some sort of public indecency ticket; and the freaking gate falls off one hinge. So I am wrestling with a shitty gate, in the rain, half covered in mud and manure, in my bra, trying to not be seen by neighbors or oncoming traffic.
And THAT ladies and gentlemen, is how a farmer does a walk of shame.