Did you know that cows are some of the most curious creatures on earth? I’m pretty sure the only reason they made Curious George a monkey is because monkeys are smaller and cuter than cows. And, obviously, who would ever believe a handful of balloons carried a cow away?
(Okay, never mind. Seriously, why did they use a monkey? Is that not the cutest cartoon you ever did see? I totally copyright it y’all. Someday I’ll be perfectly famous for my children’s books and you can be like, “Hey… I think I saw her first cartoon way back in the day.” Okay. Sorry. On to the story…)
Any good dairy farmer knows that your best cow will probably be your most troublesome. Which is exactly the problem we had with Old Red. She milked like a tank but was far too curious for her own good.
And she had a severe aversion to the pasture. There were just too many interesting things on the other side of the fence.
I would get a slight sick feeling every time I drove home after being in town a couple hours. Would there be a cow out? If there was, you can bet that Old Red was leading the pack.
One day I was in the kitchen washing dishes, with five children five and under crawling around my feet, when there was a sharp knock on the front door. It was our neighbor coming to complain about the cows being in her pasture. “And they’re headed toward the road,” she said before turning to go home.
I looked at her quickly retreating back with slightly wide eyes, trying to calculate how in tarnation I was going to chase cows while keeping five little kids safe. Since I don’t have any children someone could threaten to take away from me, I’ll go ahead and admit that I sat the four oldest ones on the couch and told them NOT. TO. MOVE. I looked at the five-year-old and said, “Whatever you do, don’t let anyone leave the house or touch the stove. NO MATTER WHAT.” He nodded soberly and I grabbed the baby and a scarf and headed out the door. I tied the baby to my hip and clomped across the road with my pink rubber boots and one fiery hot temper.
Sure enough it was Old Red standing on the edge of the State Road with her big eyes staring at me in defiance. By this time I had dialed my husband’s number about fifteen times but he was working in the back field and didn’t have service. “Okay, God,” I said, aloud, “now would be a good time to keep all traffic away. Thankyousomuch.”
Old Red and I engaged in a stare down as I swung my arms and suggested that she move her big-ole red butt toward the barn. I think I was on the edge of winning when a car came zooming up the road. I’m pretty sure the driver was trying to help when they laid on the horn all the way past me (I’m positive no one would have the audacity to be displaying irritation at a woman, with a baby on her hip and a cow loose, for taking up part of the highway.) but regardless, Old Red got spooked.
You know how they have marathons and triathlons and all those other -athons to test a person’s endurance and physical fitness? I humbly suggest that if someone really wants to test their endurance they should strap a twenty-five pound child to their hip, slip on a pair of slightly-too-big-and-knee-high muck boots, and chase a cow down the highway.
The good news is that it turns out I can still sprint as well as I could in high school.
By the time I had the three loose heifers rounded toward the barn, I could see my husband coming up the road on his old Case 930, one hand lifted to shield the sun from his eyes.
When I walked back into the house a few minutes later, the five-year-old was marching back and forth in front of the couch, with all the rest of the children sitting primly in their seats. He spun to look at me.“They’re all here, Tasha!” he announced. Well, thank goodness for that.
My husband and I were truly flabbergasted at the way our cows refused to stay in the pasture. We had a five-strand high-tensile fence with cedar posts every eight feet and by the second month of the season, the cows had it shredded.
One day, after working on the fence for 4 hours, we let them loose. Both of us were convinced there was no way an animal could get out of it this time. While we stood there watching, Old Red walked right up to a brand-new cedar post, put her head against it and leaned eighteen hundred pounds into the six inches of wood. It was, shockingly, no match for her and snapped in two like a toothpick. Once that post was down, she walked up to the next one and repeated the action, at which point the fence wasn’t hard to walk over. Before you could say, “Ada the Ayrshire”, she was happily grazing in the hay field.
My husband took three deep breaths and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He rented an auger and put in an order and three weeks later we were rebuilding the fence. No little cedar posts this time. We built a fence with telephone poles, railroad ties, and page wire.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and, as it turns out, to fence a pasture.
And I’ll admit; I get ridiculous amounts of pleasure watching Old Red pace inside that page wire fence.
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll the love my collection of farming stories in The Thing About Dairy Farmers.