Log Cabin Chronicles

Once I was a cowman

Montrose, Colorado

So yesterday morning I'm sitting in the living room, having coffee and reading the paper, when the phone rings. April -- Sandy's eldest daughter --picks it up.

"Where is she now?" I hear her say. "Thanks."

She turns to me with a report.

"The cow and calf are down the street at the neighbor's."

It is 8:30. The odyssey is about to begin.

I gather up the other two kids, and the four of us head down the road to seek out the cow. Sandy -- my wife -- is at work and unable to take part in the unfolding adventure. Lucky girl.

A short walk and there they are -- the escapees -- wandering in the pasture, momma cow oblivious of her calf straggling behind. Sandy bought the pair for me from a neighbor while I was away on a trip. The price was great. And Sandy, ever helpful to try and turn me from a city boy to a "real hand" has helped me realize a secret life-long desire to be a real cowboy.

This cow is an odd-looking thing --some dairy genes mixed with some beef. Bessie is a good reddish color and a tan/pink nose. The calf -- the girls have named her Georgie -- is brindle/liver color, with a pinched face and a little tuft of hair on her belly making most who see her from a distance think she is a little bull. She is apparently bewildered by her mother's indifference.

We set up our drive and soon she is back through the hole the cow has stomped through the welded and barbed-wire fence. April stands guard while I repair the fence. As I walk up the drive to put the tools away, my task complete and the fence raised another twelve inches, I hear April scream,"You stupid cow!"

Now the dimwit has jumped clean over another section of fence that is only four feet tall. Trotting back down the road to the preferred pasture she was just driven from, she doesn't even look back to see her calf -- a clear case of abandonment -- still in our pasture. Another drive, another repair.

She stays for about thirty minutes, and then leaps over another section of fence at the back. Retrieved yet again, she now decides she will plow right through another section. Calf follows. Another hour goes by while we carefully set up the path to drive her back. And another steamroller job on the fence flattens it yet again. I repair it and raise another strand of barbed wire.

She jumps! She nearly clears five feet! Truly, she's a Cow Olympic hopeful.

The "nearly" results in her udder catching on a barb, and a small artery is ripped open. Oblivious to her injury, away down the road again she wanders, squirting a small stream of blood in a squiggly line on the pavement as she waddles. This time, I take the opportunity to pen up the calf before setting off for another hour of fun and frolic.

She is over the hill and out of sight now, but I can trail her. Bright red blood spatters on the asphalt and when she turns down a dirt road running by the irrigation canal she leaves a series of brownish spatters in the dust. I trail her for another mile or so, and she turns back toward town. Now the blood is scarce -- must've been a couple of gallons sprayed out on the ground. Apparently, cows have great reserves of blood.

When I finally catch sight of her, she looks unperturbed -- her wound has stopped bleeding. Unlike me, she's not even breaking a sweat. Reinforcements arrive, and she takes up station across the street from our pasture. We return her calf to her, hoping the baby will calm Mom down a bit and give us time to construct a small pen out of borrowed, welded steel tubular fence panels.

Now we attempt to drive Mom and baby toward the pen and the bucket of grain placed to attract her. No dice. Around the farm we go again, several times. She is remarkable in her speed and dexterity in eluding eight humans and a wannabe cowherding dog.

We separate the pair again. I actually rope the baby and, with our neighbor Ken's help, fashion a halter to keep the calf from choking itself to death while we bait the cow into the pen. We retreat to the shade and a glass of tea, feigning indifference while Mom sidles up to the pen.

The bucket of grain proves too much of a temptation. In she goes to munch. CLANG! The trap is sprung and there is no escape. Baby now has Mom corralled for a long-awaited nursing session. Mom can't get up enough of a run to jump the six-foot panels. Sandy and Tim retreat to their planning session and decide to learn what it is like to offer cows at auction.

So next Friday we will drive these cattle to the Western Slope Livestock Auction where we will try to maintain forlorn looks on our faces while the auctioneer sells our beef to some unsuspecting fool. We'll laugh all the way home and watch our TV for some amusing video of the Olympic hopeful cow.

Bessie was her name.... Her gentle eyes, wet, dripping nose, and her calf will be over someone else's fence this time next week --maybe all the flies will go with her, too. May they all then stay where they are.

I was once a cowman. For a week. Now, like most dudes, I buy my beef at the grocery store. Lesson learned. Avoid jumping cows at all cost and never own an animal you can't relocate by simply picking them up by the scruff of the neck.

Tim Conner says he is done chasing critters.

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Copyright © 1999 Tim Conner/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.99