The newly-green right-of-way was just too much for 69’s little steer to resist. His smutty muzzle and coal black nose contrasted more sharply with his fluffy white face as the rain began to fall harder.
This was his second foray along the county road. He had to sample the succulent goods in spite of his mama’s warning.
His first offense was on a Sunday afternoon. My brother-in-law Brant spotted him before any issues arose and convinced him to return to his mama. No other details were given as Brant is a man of few words. Rachel mended the most obvious locations that displayed a security breach. But that turned out to be only a temporary fix.
Situated along Chilton County Road 10, near the birthplace of my father and home of Granddaddy’s Barn, this stretch of fence has been the subject of constant patchwork and revision over the years, though after recent events, it may reside slightly higher on the priority list for a complete overhaul. The challenge with this stretch is that it borders a paved road and ditch with two flash flood culverts on one side and what always seems like the “Slough of Despond” from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress on the other. Whether it’s your sins causing your decline or your proximity to the floodplain, you always sink deeper into the mud when working this section of fence. And everyone slow rolling along the county road is watching and judging.
I, for once, was glad the passers-by were slow rolling when I caught 69’s little joker working his way up the fence row the Monday afternoon following his Sunday escape. Nothing stops local log trucks like a panicked woman speed walking in the middle of the road in a bright turquoise rain coat. On the flip side, nothing alarms a happily grazing steer like a panicked woman in a bright turquoise rain coat speed walking near his new honey hole. Thankfully, the alarmed herd of cows he was grazing alongside vehemently called for him to return immediately to their care. Despite the availability of rotten wire along that fence, it seemed like an eternity before he finally found a gap weak enough to punch through.
After she was alerted of the situation, Rachel immediately penned off at least the part of the herd that she could locate with the ATV. The other half of the bunch harboring the offender had disappeared into the slough. She worked on the fence until I returned from “headquarters” with her requests for more fencing supplies.
She met me at Granddaddy’s barn, and we proceeded in the ATV to locate and pen the missing persons. They followed like milk pen calves, thanks to an abundance of grain. Next up was making sure the fence in their reduced quarters was up to snuff. And by that, I mean we ran wire over downed trees (complete with fox feces—added bonus when you’re stressed), in privet hedges and blackberry patches in areas that we thought surely no cow would enter. The manure piles at our feet told another story.
We circled our way over the creeks and back to Granddaddy’s barn but not without a following. Herd bull Prince loves pursuing “The Honda” more than any bovine on the place, and he had apparently told his ladies that everyone should follow suit. Conveniently, they all ganged up next to the barn pen—including 69 and her little white, smutty bandit.
Rachel had mentioned earlier that penning and trailering them to headquarters was a possibility, and now it seemed like the opportunity couldn’t be denied. We opened the pen gates. She boldly drove the ATV straight under the barn while I awkwardly circled the few cows standing at the entrance and prayed that the 69 pair would choose to enter. Mission accomplished. Rachel ducked out from the barn, and we managed to not only pen the pair we needed but sort out the ones we didn’t. We secured the pair in the holding area. Rachel departed to fetch the stock trailer and left me to make sure the pair didn’t escape.
“If we lose them, this is all in vain,” she said. I was aware.
To be continued…