We have never lived next door to cattle before. People were our only neighbors until we moved to Windy Hill. Today, it is cattle, and they are acting suspiciously.
Windy Hill is surrounded by 60 acres of pasture land, and Christine and George graze part of their herd on it. We do have people in the area as neighbors – Joe, Gordon and Vivian, Nick – but between their homes and ours are the cattle. Cattle that are ever-vigilant.
Whenever we trudge up the path to the cars, they gather at the fence, staring silently at us as we load up our bags and climb in. Or, whenever we decide to take Daisy out for a walk to our mailbox at the side of the little back-road highway, they look up from their grass, eyeing us up and down, and even follow us to the end of the fence.
We have concluded that this whole bovine thing is an act. They are playing dumb, waiting for their chance to make a break for it and charge off to town, or California, or wherever. We have heard them plotting in the trees.
On occasion, when we leave the house quietly, we can hear one of them bellowing in the copse of trees they use for shade in the summer. Not a moo, but a bellowing trumpet, loud enough to hear across the valley. We can’t see which one is bellowing, but he sounds like a trouble-maker. We only can see the rear ends of the rest of them as they huddle together, all looking into the trees and listening. Tails swish in the breeze at the bellowing goes on and on. It looks like the stuff of a political rally, a call to the citizens to take up arms and attack the Bastille.
They tried a break-out recently. I was driving through the large gate at the entrance to our place to discover an Angus the size of a small car standing in the middle of the lane, on the wrong side of the fence. How she got there is anyone’s guess. As she is too big to vault the barbed wire, I assumed she must have dug a tunnel under it like the Mexican drug lord “El Chapo” when he escaped prison. The rest of the herd gathered at the corner of the fence as I got out of my car.
In the country, neighbors help neighbors, especially when their livestock is involved, so I decided to coax Bossie back through my gate and enclose her on my property while I called Christine.
Bossie gave me one of her best, surly, bovine stares as I waved my arms and tried to drive her through the gate. She ponderously wandered to the right, away from the gate, and the herd mooed in approval.
I rounded her, cut off her escape, and tried to drive her back towards the gate again. She turned, but wandered past the gate to the left. As she passed the herd who were watching from the other side of the fence, they broke into a cheer of moo’s. Their words were “Moo!”, but their meaning was, “GO, GIRL!…YOU DAH WO-MAN!…WE GOT YER BACK!…”
It was dispiriting, knowing that the community opposed me, but I wasn’t going to give in to popular opinion – I had a responsibility to my neighbors and I was going to see it through. I rounded Bossie again, and she turned and passed the herd once more, but this time she wandered through the gate, onto the upper pasture of Windy Hill. Success! As I closed the gate behind her and locked the chain, the herd roared its disapproval.
“Go eat some pork, John Wayne!”
As I walked back to my car, the herd fell silent. I called Christine, let her know about her steer, and drove off to the city. I am confident that I did what I needed to do under the circumstances, but I always pause in thought now before I bite into a hamburger. And the cattle continue to watch us. They watch us get in our cars, get our mail, weed our garden…ever watching…ever waiting…