Words and pictures from the author of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Grass Is Always Greener
Cows are drawn to weak fences by an uncanny and unerring force. And yes, in what passes for the bovine mind, the grass is always greener on the other side. So she'll munch and lean into the fence, ignoring those puny barbs (a cow's skin is very, very thick) till, if someone doesn't shoo her away and fix that wire that's down, she'll make a bigger gap and then there'll be a serious outbreak of cattle.
When we first moved to the farm and started a herd, our fences were what is technically known as a joke. Rusted, sagging barbed wire, rotting, leaning locust posts -- and that was the good part. We patched and mended, unable to afford the total replacement that was really called for. And we learned how to herd cattle when they've escaped and gone off on an adventure.
During those early years we got to know a lot about the other side of our mountain, tracking the cows through the scrub and overgrown pastures there. We learned how to avoid looking at a suspicious cow as you slip around her to turn her back the way she came. We found that there seemed to be an unwritten law among cows and calves that if the whole herd is nicely bunched and moving back through the hole in the fence to their home pasture, one, or possibly two, will invariably decline to follow the gang and take off in a frenzy, running along the wrong side of the fence looking for a better way in. We learned that a little sweet feed in a bucket is the best way to get cattle to follow you and that you can get poison ivy, even in winter.
I could go on about cows on the loose but just now I think I'd better see what those girls are up to.
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