The snow had been falling all day. It had, in fact, been snowing for several days and it was predicted that white, fluffy flakes would continue to fall throughout the coming days. The eighteen inches on the ground sandwiched a layer of thick ice, making the walk up the fence line harder than usual. As the day was beginning to wane, I had no time to admire the soft blue hues that lay in drifts around me. Only one thought filled my mind: We had to move the cattle from the front pasture.
In the winter, we usually feed the stock at the front feeder. It sits just down our driveway and it saves a body a long, cold, wet walk to the barn in our usual dreary winter weather. However, due to the blanket of snow on the ground, we had been unable to haul more hay up front, thus we ran out of feed and were forced to start feeding at the barn instead. It isn’t a difficult task and the walk isn’t bad. Unfortunately, the cows were insisting on being fed out front and ignored us as we walked past them on our way to the barn.
The day wore on and still the cows stood in the front feeder, eyes glued to the front windows of the house, calling, calling, and calling for someone to come feed them.
It wasn’t until late in the day that it occurred to me that the cows didn’t know the power was out, which was a good thing. However, if they discovered that the electric fence was not working, we could be in trouble. Now, I’ve chased my share of cattle in the last thirteen years. I’ve stared face to face with a two-thousand pound bull, and I’ve had slimy, fresh born, two-hundred pound calves knock me down as they tried to escape my grasp. None of it was what I would deem as “fun”. In fact, truth be told, I’ve used several colorful words to describe each event and “fun” was not among them.
The thought of chasing cattle in knee deep snow brought to mind many of those colorful metaphors and once again, none of them included the word “fun”.
Pulling on boots and coats, Boy headed for the barn, while I began the long walk up the fence line. Each step included a breaking of the inch thick ice beneath the layer of snow, causing me to lose my balance on more than one occasion. The apple trees hung heavy with snow causing the branches to arch like fingers and prick the ground below them. Their spiny limbs grabbed at my hair and coat. The trees seemed alive and I was reminded of the apple trees from the Wizard of Oz that pelted Dorothy and Scarecrow with apples of angry protest.
Clearing the trees, I looked over my shoulder and caught the cows all watching me with interest. Cows are curious. They love to investigate any abnormality to their day and will often follow the slightest whim to make some new discovery. I was counting on their inquisitive nature that cold evening, hoping I wouldn’t be forced to climb over the gate and into the field itself. If they would just follow me up to the lane that separated the two pastures, they might get the idea that food was to be found at the barn.
”HUMBOSS!” I called and continued my struggle along the fence and up the hill.
The snow was falling heavier and dark thoughts crowded my mind. A wrong step left me waist deep in snow and I began to consider a phone call to our butcher, but then realized if I couldn’t get out of my drive way, he wouldn’t be able to get up it. So much for quick and easy solutions.
I sat in the snow, my wheezing breath reminding me that I hadn’t taken my inhaler before strenuous exercise. “I hate cows,” I said aloud. Grabbing a fence post, I pulled my self up and turned to look at the herd. They stood in exactly the same place, brown eyes watching me and breathe steaming from their nostrils. I wanted to scream at them. I wanted, frankly, to take the rifle and end this delightful snow dance we were doing.
Suddenly, the heifer standing at the fore front of the herd took a step forward. I saw a blinding flash of light as the light-bulb above her head suddenly illuminated and she began to trot up the hill towards the lane. Oh! Alright, I didn’t actually see an illumination, but believe me when I say I saw recognition on that cows face. Her mottled features seemed to smile as she ran passed me and up through the lane. The other cows, not to be left out, followed her calling and kicking as they ran.
My burdened lightened, I traced my original footsteps back to the house. As long as the herd had food and water, they wouldn’t be testing the fence. There were no rebels among them and they would happily stay at home.
The next morning, as I opened the front door, the cry of hungry cows greeted me. There they stood, in the front feeder, waiting to be fed.