Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Grass IS Always Greener (or) The Great Escape, part deux

Some stories - the really epic ones - have not one but two morals. I believe this is such a story. For those of you with better things to do (all of you), I'll spare you the time and trouble and give you the morals now. They are as follows:

1) No matter what the idiom tells us, the grass is, in fact, always greener on the other side. Literally, if you have livestock, the grass is probably more bountiful on the other side of the fence and you should bear this in mind as you build fences. And you must never forget.

2) The only way to get what you want is to have what others want. This is a general rule of thumb and applies, I think, to every situation. I mean, there are other ways to get what you want - but this is a pretty sure fire method, in most cases.

Ok. That's all you need to know.....unless you are exceedingly bored in which case you can stick around for the actual story.

Actual story:
On Sunday we planned to swing by the land long enough for the dogs to romp through the woods and for Jeremy to have a few more hours pushing dirt around atop the beloved tractor. Both are sacred rituals, and while we still spend time packing the car with food and tools, it's always meant to be a more leisurely day than Saturdays. Which is why I felt my eyes inadvertantly roll all the way back in my head when my forest hike with the dogs brought us to the frontmost, northern corner of our property. There stood Seamus, wild eyed and bellowing, next to Matilda and Rooney. Only, Seamus stood alone on our side of the fence and property. The others were deep into an afternoon snack of the neigbor's knee high grass. On the other side of the fence. Sigh. I was not up for "an adventure."

I quickly spotted the culprit, a gaping hole in the corner, large enough for the two to slip through but just a hair too small for our largest cow. My tried and true response to such situations, (tears and shrieking) didn't even occur to me. I felt completely, eerily calm because both of the escapees were just on the edge of the property and therefore, easily retrieved. I looked at that hole, those cows and said "pppsshhhhaaa," shrugged my shoulders and walked leisurely through the woods to report the issue to Jeremy. We gathered materials to patch the fence and, most importantly, I filled the little red bucket with the items that cows desire above all else: range cubes and sweet feed (please see moral #2). I had this situation in the bag.

(What the cows want.)

We turned and walked back into the woods, with a screaming Seamus tearing behind us, absolutely horrified by the separation from his stinky buddies. I made my way back to the hole, jumping vines and limbs, only to look up and find the two little cows were gone. A quick look left, right, and behind me confirmed they were absolutely gone. Just. Gone. All that stood before me was a crooked fence and tangle of trees and overgrown brush that I couldn't see through. Countless acres ahead. The Great Cow Retrieval 2010 must commence, whether or not I cared to participate.

(Neighbor's property = Evil seductress)

I believe it was around this point that I squeaked to Jeremy (who was somewhere in the trees behind me) that the "d*mn cows are gone and holy CR*P this is going to be a sh*t day and.." etc, and so forth. I'm pretty sure I dramatically peeled of my sweat shirt, then dramatically tore off my long sleeve shirt and flung them on the barbed wire fence, before army crawling through the hole with the precious bucket in hand- a martyr venturing into the deep unknown. (If you ever wondered, I have the unnecessary-drama-role down pat. It really adds that extra special something to otherwise crappy situations.)

Anyway, there I was, belly down on the neighbor's land, a rush of adrenaline overtaking my senses as various scenarios began to race wildly through my head. They involved a jaunt into overgrown woods with no exit. Picture The Blair Witch Project only minus the video camera and, you know, with cows. I imagined a journey through this foreign pasture only to discover a lack of fencing and open road beyond, tiny cows lost forever. Worse yet, I envisioned an encounter with the herd of hog whose hoof prints are left all over our place, their path onto our land obviously derives from this very plot of land. Tusks. Wiry hair. Angry disgusting beasts. A little scream started to well up in the back of my throat until I looked down and saw a very fresh pile of cow manure...a fresh hoof print, another, and another. There was a clear trail.

I jogged along the northern fence line, expecting them to come bounding from the deep woods, tails wagging. I shook the bucket, a sound they seem to always hear acres away. I rattled the fence, paused, heard the crackle of something behind me, whirled around to see a small limb falling, something rustle in the distance, chills down my spine, something was definitely watching me. This was a dead end. Or maybe it wasn't, but I felt creepy and decided to try another direction. I turned and ran screaming and shouting, rustling trees, thinking this wild attempt would somehow draw them towards me. Nothing. And now there were new hoofprints in the opposite direction along the fence by our place. How, HOW?! did they move so quickly? These are not agile creatures! I followed this other trail finding one print after another in a meandering path only slightly aware of the fact that the hoof prints were getting smaller and smaller until suddenly realizing none were larger than that of a cat. Baby hogs next to adult hogs. This was a hog path and the cow prints had ended 5 minutes ago. Now I was lost. Screaming for Jeremy elicited nothing except the scatter of animals in the brush that I could hardly see. I spun around and tore back in a general direction hoping it would lead me to familiar ground, the cows clearly gone forever. Suddenly I heard Seamus's cries again and they were answered by a hysterical "mooooOOOOOOAAAHHHOOOOOOoooooo!" They're back!! Oh fantastic, beautiful - they were back!! I sprinted to the fence, happily calling for Jeremy, only to find Seamus nose to nose with another neighbor's baby longhorn. They were mournfully crying at each other. This was useless.

(Baby longhorn)

I vaguely recall barking orders at Jeremy who was standing at the hole with the dogs. Something about crawling through the fence, splitting up, bringing the dogs, hunting them down, by God we would FIND THEM!!!!, I thundered. Jeremy blinked a few times, hung his head, mumbled that I should calm down and squirmed through the hole while the dogs pushed past him. He kicked a rock, muttered something distasteful, and slumped his shoulders. "Whaddayouwantmetodoanyways? Wheredoyawantmetogo?" He mumbled, officially annoyed by this ridiculous task. I had already set out along the north fence again, shouting something over my shoulder about finding the cows if it was the last thing we did and even if the sun set and even if it rained and even if we had to call in sick tomorrow.

I did not see him again for some time.

This is a truly expansive property. It is puncuated with towering cactus but primarily is an overgrown oak and elm forest, wild grape vines as thick as my arm hang down and cross the paths, brush at the base of every tree - I literally could not see through it. We circled that place for a long time, an hour? I don't know. It was ridiculous, really, and in retrospect the drama of it all is hilarious. I'm fairly certain at one point I called to Jeremy to "follow my voice!!!!" assuming he was hugging a tree somewhere, terrified of the unknown wilderness, until he strolled up to me lazily and shrugged, "What's up? I didn't see them." It was at that exact moment when we met again, that I saw the blur of something move behind a nearby cactus. And there stood Matilda, grass sticking out of her mouth, eyes wide open, shocked to see me. Busted.

I was out of breath, sticks in my hair, ripped tshirt, chest heaving, my pathetic bucket still clutched in my hands. I shook it tentatively. She raised her nose and sniffed the air, pursed her lips, a quiet "mooo" escaped and she slowly ambled towards me. Like it was nothin'. Like we hadn't just risked life and limb, outsmarted who-knows-how-many-horrifying-mythical-forest- creatures for this moment of rescue. Nothin'.

The rest happened quickly. Rooney, with his head in a bush 20 feet behind Matilda, quickly followed behind until suddenly both were trotting behind me. I found the fence, followed it up to the hole, rolled through the jagged opening and carefully lured both out - dumping the contents at the edge of the creek. Jeremy quickly repaired the fence

while the dogs stared alternately at me, slumped against a cedar tree, and the cows, joyfully munching their prize.

So there you have it. The grass actually is much greener on the other side. I don't know the origins of this saying but am fairly certain the original author had cows.

The last great escape also took place in March - last March when the three found a weak spot in the fence that borders another lush bundle of grasses. We learn as we go, but it's not a tricky science. They love the glorious, bountiful grass that sprouts on all the neighboring pastures, except ours. In the spring, when it grows again, it's time to check fences in earnest. And keep some treats handy.

I leave you with this heartbreaking video of Seamus in peril:

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