I am a pro at moving cattle. Not.
It seems I can never get it quite right. Except for the times that I do. Usually.
The day Dave was moving cattle on a farm in another county, I was big as a barn with our fourth child. We had groundhogs on the farm, and four-year-old Timmy was afraid of groundhogs. He wasn’t, however, afraid of cows, heifers or bulls who were a gazillion pounds heavier than groundhogs. There were several hundred cattle and quite a few bulls, but the only one slightly fearful was me, the pregnant mom.
Not a lot has changed since that time, except that I’m not pregnant when we’re moving cattle anymore. Those days are gone, but moving cattle days aren’t.
My job, during the moving-cattle-time-at this place, was to stand in the yard to keep those animals from traipsing across the flower beds and leaving cow pies in the yard in which our kids would be playing. I don’t like bulls. That’s because I grew up in dairy country, and I can tell you stories about people being gored by dairy bulls.
There was the cousin who had a pitchfork in his hand when the bull charged him while he was cleaning out his pen. The pitchfork saved the life of my cousin, and the bull was sold the next day.
I am a pro at reading minds of cattle. Not.
Another one of my jobs in recent years has been to keep the cattle from eating the leaves of the newly planted pear trees. It’s so easy, you know: six head of cattle eating away at different trees and I’m to be waving six hands at six heads feasting on six different trees to make them move away from their newly-found pleasure. As if they will listen to me. Except when I holler and move too fast, and then they listen too well. They head for the road or the woods. Neither place is where they are allowed to go, and guess who is called the-woman-you-gave-to-me when that happens?!
My husband says there is no need to be afraid of a beef bull. They’re gentle and friendly and won’t hurt you. “Just don’t act like you’re scared,” I’ve been told.
As if. And just how, pray tell, is someone to act like they’re not scared when they are?!
You have a four-year-old tell you, “It’s all right, Mama. I won’t let the groundhogs get you,” when he’s standing in the yard helping you guard the flower beds. You wonder how he could be so unafraid while you’re wishing this was all over before it started.
Dave thought it was a riot when he heard this. After all, even his small son wasn’t afraid of the cattle. Therefore I shouldn’t be, either. (And groundhogs don’t count so we can’t even go there.) For that matter, he feels the same about black snakes, but that’s another story.
I’ve discovered that beef cattle bulls really are docile in spite of their size. I’ve picked blackberries among the two-ton bull and his harem and not been afraid. I just make sure I know where he is at all times, just in case. Even so, I could never outrun a bull, no matter how much adrenaline would be flowing through my veins. You see, I’ve got this knee that orthopedics says will need a replacement some day. So I just move as best I can and hope the bull likes me more than I like him.
Getting better at moving cattle
After all these years, my job in moving cattle continues to be along the back side, away from the forefront where things are happening. I’m in the back in the “just in case they go that way” part of the yard. I’m still expected to hang on one side of the yard until they move to the other side of the house and then high-tail it to that other side to keep them from heading back to the woods. As if I can high-tail with this knee, anyhow. Usually, by the time I get to the other side of the house, the cattle are in the pasture. Oh well, I’m there for support if nothing else.
And, I do help move the vehicles. Oh no, we’re not afraid of the cattle hurting our vehicles. We use them as a barricade. Toby, the red pick up, Milo the 15-passenger van, Alphonse the Buick, Thelma Lou the other Buick, Leo the tan Ford minivan, Waldo the white Chrysler minivan, Leroy the white pick-up, and any other vehicle that happens to be on the property. They’re all lined up along the front of the house so the cattle will be deterred from heading toward the road – which, by the way, is not a fun thing to happen. You do not even want to know how I know.
So we open the gates of the unoccupied pasture, line up the vehicles, and are stationed at strategic places along the front of the house. Except for me. My job is to hang around the back and look like I know what I’m doing. And then, in case any cattle do come my way, shoo them to the front of the house. ‘Piece of cake, I know. I’ve been doing this for 29 years. I’ve got it.
Whatever and Usually
Whatever I do, I’m not to run because that will make them head anywhere but where we want them to go. Whatever I do, I’m to keep cool and collected and know exactly what Dave would want me to do in the event of an unforeseen cattle maneuver (which, by the way, I usually get incorrect). Whatever I do, I’m not to let any cattle get around me to the back of the house because that’s where the woods is, and that’s where cattle go when we can’t find them for days. You also don’t want to know how I know about this.
The other thing I’m to do is just give ’em time. You know, the cattle. Let them meander out into the yard, allow them to graze as much as they want but don’t allow them to get to flower beds or trees. Then, wait – and wait – and wait – for them to decide which way they want to go. Oh yes, and the other thing is we listen to Dave say, “Easy, easy, easy, just give ’em time . . . ” After a few moves, the new-to-us cattle know the other pasture with newer grazing is just across the way. Until they remember that, it’s a wait-and-see game.
There are other rules about moving cattle.
Don’t yell. Don’t move fast (except when I’m to move to the other side of the house lickety-split). If they come toward me, allow them – unless they decide to move past me, which I’m to realize because I can read their minds. After all, I’m a farm gal and I should know how to read their movements and their minds. Simultaneously, to be exact.
Usually, things go like clock-work. Usually, the vehicles provide the barrier necessary and the cattle choose to head toward the greener pasture instead of the road. Usually, I can convince them to go in another direction if they head my way. Usually, I don’t move too fast. Usually, I don’t startle the cattle. Usually, they move away from me instead of toward me. Usually.
I’m always glad when it’s a usually-move. There’s a whole lot less tension and frustration when it’s a usually-move. It’s really nice because when usually happens, I don’t have to dig out that Marriage 101 manual again.