Friday, March 22, 2013

Barnyard Tales Chapter 1. How stripping helps herd cows.

Everyone has great stories from when they were growing up. Mine just happen to revolve around animals.

It was a beautiful summer day when my world was shattered by the words no farm kid ever wants to hear, “The cows are on the road. Get home and round them up.” Cows are wily creatures; capable of ignoring shocks from highly electrified fences to get to that greener grass on the other side, and of dividing and running through terrain that ATVs stand no chance in. One does not simply round up cows alone.

Alone, save for the trusty four wheeler, I set out against the odds to try to capture the herd and drive it back to safety. I drove a sea of black before me, okay so maybe only thirty of them. So, I drove a pond of black before me. I made it nearly to the pasture by the barn before the unthinkable happened.

The four troublemakers splintered from the herd. They sprinted towards the safety of the woods like Olympians. From my position behind the wall of black I could only curse. This was what I had feared. I herded the rest of the herd towards the barn, but they did not wish to go to the catch pen. They were close, only 100 feet from it. Close enough, I thought. I returned to the hunt for the fearsome four.

Over ditches, and around trees they led me. The sun passed over head as I followed their ghostly black forms, wispy between the trees. A glimpse here or there and a fruitless search before finally cornering, driving them home. Only to have them splinter again. Three times we completed this dance. Three times I cursed and followed and chased. Three times I felt the futility of my actions, but on the sweet, sweet fourth? On that fortuitous trip I crested the hill only to see the four split like the four winds my soul cried out in frustrated agony. The four wheeler sputtered and died. And my dear, wonderful, life saving father was walking up the hill to relieve me like an avenging angel sent from heaven he would rescue me from the calves of hell and rain vengeance upon them. “Thank God.” I cried in glorious relief, only to be dismayed moments later as he motioned to the remainder of the herd and handed me the cattle prod.

It was clear that my task was not done. On foot now, with only my heart pumping in my ears and the faint sound of the four wheeler in the distance I approached the herd and surveyed my quarry. They lounged upon the hill opposite the barn; chewing cud in an effort to look amiable, to distract me from their dastardly ways.. The expanse of the lake between us and the hill was spanned by a small low water bridge. A chokepoint. An easy place to hold. A fence crossed the lake dam preventing them from merely circling and wearing me out. I could do this.

I coaxed, chased, cursed, and cajoled the cows across the low water bridge. Predictably they ran around the lake and faced the fence across from where they had been. Haha! I thought as I shut the slinky gate across the low water bridge. I have you now! I circled the lake, my pending victory sending strength to my exhausted limbs  and chased the herd back towards the barn. I could no longer hear the four wheeler for my labored breath as I jogged along after them. When they saw the gate, they did what I had not foreseen. They waded into the damned lake. Not a cow, or two, but the entire frigging herd. They stood there in the murky water and stared me down with their big brown eyes. “What now, B?” I could almost hear them laughing.

So, I did what any self respecting woman would do when faced with a muddy lake (lake mud smells horrid by the way). I threw rocks around them and screamed. Oh bloody hell I screamed. They finally waded out of the lake. On the side by the fence again. FML. I thought as I watched my mother standing up at the gate laughing. I glared and set out again, prod in hand.

This repeated two more times. I won’t bore you with the sordid details of scrambling around and lobbing rocks, solid dirt, anything I could find. Finally, as I stood facing off the herd yet again my mother joined me. I was alone in my battle no more. She threw rocks and screamed to, but to no avail. They were onto us, and though my mother is a good enough aim to actually hit a cow if she chose, as opposed to my ineffective flinging, the cows didn’t care. It was hot. They were wet, and they did not want to go up to the barn. Our stalemate lasted minutes, but they seemed like hours.

But with one risky move my mother ended it. I stared at her, confused, as she removed her shoes, pants, shirt and stood in her underwear. She grabbed a stick and marched toward the cows yelling admonishments at them and warnings at me. “Get your lazy asses up to the barn. You damned cows.” “Lauren, don’t you dare take any pictures. If this shows up on YouTube I'm going to kill you.” Like I could react fast enough anyway. My mind was blown. Such a simple solution. Why hadn’t I seen it?

Then the sound we had been awaiting. The four wheeler. My father burst triumphantly through the trees. The four stranglers pacing in front of him in a parody of chariots of old. The calves eagerly joined the herd in the lake as my father sped to a stop and stared a moment before he burst out laughing at the image of my mother wading into the lake, gesticulating wildly with the stick.

Even the cows were shocked at her bold move. They were one upped. They stared at her a few moments in utter stupor before turning and sloshing one by one out of the water and up towards the barn. They didn’t even try to run around again. No one wants to mess with a crazy lady with a stick, wading in her underwear; not even the cows were that insane.

Mom waded out, grimacing at the stinky lake mud caked to her manicured toes. Dad drove up asking aloud, “What will you do if the neighbors show up?” And I wondered at the magical power she wielded. The cows lowed placidly from their place by the gate not one of them tried to go anywhere else.

Apparently all it takes to cow a cow is to strip. I’m going to have to keep that one in mind.

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