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Magic words to get farmers moving fastPosted Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 3:02 PM
Though the years I've learned there is nothing that gets people moving
around a farm faster than one simple declaration: "The Cows are Out."
It sends people scampering in all directions to find clothes, boots,
coveralls, gloves, a gator and a dog. In fact, besides the phrase, "Dinner is ready," I don't think there is any way to get people around our farm moving any faster.
The fact is we, and most of our neighbors, keep relatively secure fences. However, through the years I've heard the phrase "Cows are out," approximately 1,298 times. (Just an estimate, of course.)
Luckily many of those times it has turned out that the cows didn't belong to us. I've found the breakouts usually fall into a few different categories:
--Accidental Tourist: This is the cow who truly believes the old adage "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence." She uses her long neck and often, her outstretched tongue to find a way to reach over the fence.
On her lucky days, a combination of her 1,500 pound body, a high place in the pasture or a weak spot in the fence and she can quickly find herself in a lush patch of unmowed grass on the road bank.
Lucky for us, the "accidental tourist" is usually more than happy to rejoin her pasture mates after her belly is full or when she sees us heading her way -- whichever comes first. Most of the time she points out the weak spot in the fence, barreling back through the hole as we get close and she realizes her luck just ran out.
--Repeat Offender: Sometimes the "accidental tourist" can become turn into this, especially if we fail to find her secret spot in the fence.
Particularly determined "Repeat Offenders" often find themselves being
resold at the local sale barn, which is perhaps the reason they became so enterprising in the first place.
My favorite (and hubbies least favorite) "Repeat Offender" was our oldest son's first show calf, Whitey. He figured out that by licking the chain holding the gate closed, he could eventually get it undone. His favorite place to roam was our backyard and my freshly planted garden.
When he heard us coming out the door, he would quickly high tail it back through the open gate, looking at us with that fake innocence of a three-year--old caught in the cookie jar.
--Internal Security Breach: These are usually the worst cases and involve a large number of cows and calves. It's almost always caused by an open fence, left open accidently, of course, by "Not Me," that invisible third son (and second spouse) who is always around to cause the havoc, but never around for the cleanup.
Because, of course, there is safety in numbers, even the tamest group of cows enjoy their illegal romp through the countryside, while we and usually a group of neighbors convince them the fun is over -- it's time to come home.
Usually after a few laps through the corn field (and my garden), they tamely walk back through the open gate.
--Relief at Another's Expense: These are the times when we race to the cow or group of cows only to find out they belong to a neighbor. The toughest part of this scenario, though, is to find out just where the animals belong.
Although there are fewer now, there was a time when six different herds were close by and it wasn't uncommon to hear those words, "The cows are out."
Since they won't identify themselves, and most herds were predominately black, finding just whose cows they were could sometimes prove challenging.
More than once I've called the wrong farmer out of a far away field only to discover I had the wrong owner. (Oops,sorry!) Through the years, we've helped others chase their cows through cemeteries, church lots, neighbor's yards and along railroad tracks, tripping over a skunk or two in the dark on the way.
It's an interesting thing about chasing wayward cows. When they belong to the neighbor, it's an adventure and almost fun. However, when it's been our cows roaming loose and the shoe has been on the other foot, I don't remember that much fun. In fact, I've tried to put most of those chases out of my mind.
I guess the cows had it right all along: The grass really is greener on
the other side of the fence -- especially if it's not your fence.
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