On The Road Again

Being on the road again makes me weary. I might enjoy it if it were to go somewhere fun, but driving errant cows on back roads at a resistant cow’s pace is tiresome.

Our cows have been through enough routine pasture moves that they’re trained to know which back roads, shortcuts, and trails we use in pushing them to different pastures depending on the season. The past few years, instead of moving them off summer range the usual time of year, the drought forced us to move them to fall pasture early because cows were out of grass before the lease was up.

On those dry years, even though we would plan to move cows early, the weeks prior to the move always got increasingly more difficult to keep them inside fences. Cows with behavioral problems who liked testing boundaries, set bad examples for others by leading the rest astray on meet and greet adventures after finding holes and weak spots in fences to push through. During those weeks I’d start to anticipate calls from the sheriff’s department or new residents about cows allegedly out on some road or private property. People new to rural living that didn’t bother to fence their property to keep range cattle out, didn’t appreciate our cows stopping by with their fresh homemade pies and introducing themselves.

After leaving summer leased ground early for a few years in a row, our cows got accustomed to being moved sooner and remembered it. A couple of weeks ago, they proved once again, just how well-trained they are. It didn’t matter that they still had a lot of pickin’ left to eat, or that we planned to keep them on summer range for another month and get our money’s worth out of our lease this year. They assumed it was time to get movin’.

We came home one night to a phone message from a distraught resident about cows in her yard and went to find out for sure if they were ours. Black cows don’t show up well in the dark, but we needed to make sure there weren’t any on the gravel road. We didn’t find any cows around when we got there, so we planned a thorough check at first light the next day.

In the morning, a quick drive back toward the scene of the alleged hooligan cows revealed their whereabouts. Cow pies scattered on the road lead us to black cows with yellow eartags and had our brand on them. They were gaily trailing themselves down a road that would take them partway home—where we wanted them in another month. Since the gates along the road we use were all shut, our cows were almost to Pringle when we headed them off and got them turned around.

It might not have taken them long to get on the road again, but it took most of the day for the neighbors and my husband and I, to push the uncooperative bunch back to summer range for another month. I can hardly blame them for wanting to head home after being away for a while. It always feels good to be back home again where your pies are appreciated.

This column was originally published October 5-11, 2008

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