The past two weeks have had so much time pressure, I had been looking forward to a lazy rainy day yesterday. Still working all day at farm and home, but at no one’s pace or schedule but my own.
I had finished morning chores and was starting to make breakfast when I got the phone call.
“Hey, lady,” said Larry’s voice. “The state troopers just called me. Your cows are out on 73.” (Of course the police called Larry. He is buddies with them all and naturally would know all the large livestock in town.)
I rarely swear but — “Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “Thanks, Larry!” I sprinted out of my kitchen for my truck.
I had been thinking for the past week that I had to chop back the spring flush of weeds before they shorted my electric fence. Well, obviously I had waited too long.
When I got to the farm I found two gentlemen with their sedans parked to block the end of the farm driveway. The white-haired man in the first car explained to me that he’d managed to shoo “the two cows” back across the highway and down the wooded driveway. I had no idea which cattle were out — the pastures are hidden from the driveway and highway by a belt of balsam firs. I was praying one of the loose cattle was not Henry, the bull. I felt frantic, but had to stop to thank both men sincerely for their rescue efforts, and apologize for their trouble.
“Don’t worry about it,” the first man said, adding kindly, “The cows looked really well taken care of.”
The second man said, “You’ve got a beautiful place. I had no idea anything was back here.”
At this point the state troopers pulled up. (“I had to call the troopers,” explained the first man as he left. “I didn’t know what else to do.”) The young trooper who got out of the car was smiling. I figured he must be a friend of Larry’s, as he knew who I was. He brushed aside my apologies, drew a pad from his pocket, and said, “I don’t know how to spell either of your names.”
“My last name is West, W — E — S — T.”
“No, no, the really long one,” he answered, printing carefully. “H — O — C — K — L — E—?”
“Oh, that’s my married name. I never use it, but it is my legal name. Would you like me to write it down for you?”
He looked relieved and handed over the pad. “And could you write down your first name, too?”
I scribbled quickly, trying to remain calm and reassuringly in control in front of the police but aware that at any second a herd of five cattle might come crashing back through the trees to destroy the friendly scene.
As soon as the troopers pulled out I raced down the driveway, leaving my truck as a barricade across the top. Ahhh, there were the culprits! Stewart and Dorrie, my yearling steer and heifer! Naturally, having 17 open acres to gambol in, the pair were at that moment stomping through my two small perennial gardens by the apartment door.
I eased past them and hurried down to the barn. I grabbed a can of grain and shook it. The carefree yearlings bounced down the driveway. Within minutes I had enticed them into the barn, slammed the door behind them, and turned them out again with everyone else. This time I locked the entire herd in the barn paddock, where I knew the fence was sound.
Minutes later, Mike and all the farm interns from the school showed up. They had heard that my cows were on the highway and had hopped in a car to see if I needed help with a cattle drive. What kind neighbors!
I spent the rest of the day weedwhacking the fencelines in my yellow foul weather gear, rain sheeting off the brim of my baseball cap, the weedwhacker snarling in a cloud of gas fumes, my hands numbing from the vibration, while the animals watched and glumly ate hay.
DH and I have to drive downstate again today at noon. I will weedwhack for a few more hours this morning but if I can’t get a strong charge on my fence the cows may be facing another day of hay.
So much for my day off from stress.