Steak Out

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of farm indoctrination experiences for Mr. Farmer.

Before the perpetual mist settled on central Kansas, he mastered the art of tractor-driving on grain cart duty in the soybean field.

Then it got cold. And started raining.

Though the farm work has been on hold now for over a week, we’ve had the delightful experience of getting up each morning, hopping in the pick-up for the half-mile drive to Mom and Dad’s, and joking with them and my brother over coffee and 3 square meals over the course of the day.

Yesterday around noon, my brother came in the back door, poked his head in the kitchen and said to Mom, “Call the neighbors, some calves are out by our milo field heading east.”

As my grandma used to say, the worst call you can get is the one telling you the cows are out. Depending on how many escape the confines of the fence, it can take days to get them all gathered back up. Mom said once the cows got out and it took a week to find them all.

So Mom called the neighbors, and no one claimed the lost souls.

At that point Mr. Farmer and I went to town to run last minute errands for our big trip. When we got back home at dusk, it appeared that Dad had just learned of the drama. And he knew exactly who they belonged to. So he called the owner, who was headed home after a full day’s work in town. By that time the 40 calves had made their way north, milling in the milo field about a half mile south of the farmstead.

Concerned that his milo (and ultimately the yard) would get trampled, Dad rounded up a few neighbors to help drive the herd up the road, around the corner and another quarter mile down to our feedlot, where they could be penned up for the night.  Mr. Farmer and I were the designated blockers, and we were dispatched to sit on the bridge just past the feedlot in our pick-up to keep them from going too far.

In case you’ve never experienced it, when it gets dark here on a cloudy day, it’s completely dark. Like “can’t see your hands” dark. We managed to get ourselves in the truck and make the half-mile drive and get turned around in position. With only our parking lights on, we sat in the dark looking up the road at Dad’s headlights facing us from afar. And waited for the herd to come.

After 30 seconds of incomprehensible Morse code in headlight form from Dad, I got impatient and called him, “Where’re they at?” He reported that they were out in the herd owner’s field a mile away, and our Cow Whisperer neighbor was on his ATV attempting to bring them back to the road. Then he said, “I just saw a mountain lion…oh wait, they’re calling me,” and hung up.

Great. Here we are sitting in the dark, and a cat is on the loose too. (He was kidding.)

Pretty soon we saw lights from two pick-ups heading from the crossroad to our intersection, and we knew the calves were on their way. From that distance we could barely make out the herd – occasionally we’d see some moving legs in the fog of the low beams, but that was about it.

Then they rounded the corner. They were running. Right at us. Mr. Farmer feared for his life, though they were still a quarter mile away.  

It was truly a photo-worthy sight. Running legs, bobbing heads, clouds of breath all shrouded in dark mist, lit from the back with four pick-up light beams.

“What do I do?” asked Farmer from the ditch on the other side of the pick-up.

“Just spread your arms out and act like you’re trying to scare away a bear,” I said.

I can’t say I’m a seasoned cattlewoman by any means, but I’ve done this duty enough times to know that they’re pretty scared of people. Even so, when the herd was still running and they were approaching spitting distance (25 yards), I was glad to see the 4-wheeler come whizzing around to cut them off.

“Hi, nice to meet you,” Mr. Farmer said to our next-door-neighbor-ATV-driver. Then we edged forward, hoping that the softness beneath our feet was muddy road and not a poopy patty.

The calves had stopped, and after a minute they turned around to take off the other way. But by that time we had them trapped between the lot, the pasture fence on the other side of the road, and the human/pick-up fence opposite us. Pretty soon one found the opening to the lot, and the rest filed in behind.

The troops gathered at the gate to debrief and shoot the bull. No better way than a good cattle drive for Mr. Farmer to get to know the natives.

In the end, it was a successful steak out. Less than 30 minutes start to finish. And Mom’s yard escaped unscathed.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Lisa S. said,

    Shoot the bull seems a bit extreme in this situation. . . . 🙂

  2. 2

    What fun your blog is! Keep sharing, t hank you!

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