‘Til the Cows Come Home

Here’s the thing about spring: it causes trouble.  I yearn for this season just as much as the next red-blooded mammal hoping to soak up some warmth and vitamin D, absorbing rays on a cellular level as if my body is made of chlorophyll.  I’m a sucker for the robins that settle in the pasture, pulling worms from the black dirt that’s just waking up again.  And don’t get me started about the transformation from putrid greige foliage to vibrant vermillion.  Don’t even get me started.  I love spring.

But it comes each year, and especially on a farm, as a negotiation.  To get the green, I have to endure the storms – Texas-sized storms – that explode and billow from blue sky.  That blow with such force the birds lose flight and slam into our windows.  The treetops swirl and spin from the tornadic force tucked into the folds and fury of those clouds.  Every storm brings a 50/50 chance of real destruction.  But without them, and the rain, I don’t get the green.  The very same green I long for emerges as a temptress to all the ruminants that amble our fence lines.  For them, the grass really is greener on the other side.  It’s during the springtime that we experience the majority of our  livestock escapes.  I dread, worship, loathe, and crave this season all at once.  It’s a complicated set of emotions.

Which is why yesterday, a day filled with gale-force wind right after a storm dropped rain and greened up all the grasses just on the other side of the fence, I should have double and triple secured the gate that contained all four of my cows and our two bucks (who still live together in a bizarre, but tight-knit family).  I should have known, when I went to check on them at 5pm, that the aforementioned gale-force wind may blow the secured gate open, that the luminescent green grasses would lure them through the open gate, down our long driveway, across the street, and down the path of a neighbor’s heavily wooded ranch.

I should have known.

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The cows try to tolerate the green pastures on our farm which are, apparently, not good enough for their refined palates.

I was not certain that was their route, but a quick call to the neighbor confirmed they were sighted skipping and frolicking in the woods at the ranch.  A quick text to Jeremy (“Get. Home. Now. Cows. Out. They. Are. Assholes”), and a few overly-dramatic moments of shouting later (imagine me slowly falling to my knees, “Why, God, Why?!”), found us crawling and ducking through densely wooded acreage.  Thanks to the previous night’s storm, their tracks were visible – everywhere.  From the looks of things, they did the Samba across 50 + acres, no rhythm to their path, swaths of cow-sized brush cleared that would dead-end into fallen trees, seemingly impenetrable, then the path picked up again just beyond it.  It careened towards a fence, veered sharply, and was delicately dotted with both cow and goat manure.  The bizarre little family was still together.  The neighbor last spotted them at 4:30, and we covered every inch of the property from 5pm until nearly 8:30, past sundown, a time I consider the witching hour out here.  It is when the wild hogs come creeping, the coyotes prowl, and things go “slither” in the brush.  Our search was over for the night.  I came home heavy and defeated.

Last night I didn’t sleep.  I thought about Winnie deep in the forest/jungle, then about Octavian and Boss, virtual sitting ducks, in the wilderness without their Pyrenees to protect them.  I imagined them curled together, shivering with fear, thirsty and cold, terrified, likely wailing pathetically for their farm mama (that is me, in this fantasy scenario) to come rescue them.  Oh!  I thought how grateful they would be, how we would run towards each other with arms and hooves outstretched, slow-motion – across a meadow dotted with butterflies to the soundtrack of “Reunited.”  They needed me, they wanted to come home if only they knew how.  It was a ridiculous night of worry.  This morning we woke extra early to complete milking/feeding chores to be at the ranch for a new search by sun-up.  In my continuing fantasy, I assumed they would creep from their pathetic state of shivering fear just when the sun rose and start to pace the fence line, moo-ing for their rescuers.

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Do not be fooled by Winnie’s angelic appearance. She is simply plotting her escape.

Instead, I found the ranch we had covered (and re-covered, and covered again) exactly as we had left it the night before – completely devoid of the renegade, asshole livestock.  The same hoof and manure-pocked trails leading to nowhere.  This time my voice cracked as I called their names, as it suddenly occurred to me: they may have vanished.  Like, forever.  With that fear clawing my guts, I looked more carefully at the trails I had followed, and realized one cut in a direction I had not ventured yesterday.  I climbed downed trees and ducked beneath tangles of Devil’s Vine, side stepped coyote scat, dodged prickly pear cactus that towered at my height.  Suddenly the path cleared and revealed an abandoned house (Creepy y’all.  Real, real creepy) surrounded by an assortment of barns in various states of disrepair – all of the buildings encircled an enormous pond.  One barn still contained an old round bale, the sight of which quickened my pace because, although I still know very little about livestock, there is one thing for which I am certain: where there is hay, there are livestock.  I looked down and found a fresh pile of goat manure and suddenly cried out their names – they were close.  At that moment, I heard Jeremy crash through the woods behind me, and yell, “THERE!!!  They are RIGHT THERE!”  I had been so intent on my inspection of manure that I failed to notice a small group of cows and goats lounging luxuriously on the banks of the pond.  “MAH BAAABBBIIEEEEESS!!!” I shouted dramatically, arms outstretched, anticipating the sentimental reunion that was soon to occur.  Instead, I saw six pairs of eyes shift around slowly, six mouths stop suddenly in mid-chew.  They became stone-still as if hoping, perhaps, we had not seen them.  If a cow can roll its eyes, I am certain Clementine did just that, while sighing deeply with annoyance: “CRAP – they found us.”

We safely cajoled, pulled, pushed, jogged alongside, herded, and were head-butted down a 50 acre lane, across a fairly busy road on which Jeremy directed traffic as I pulled one large Jersey cow across while two amorous bucks attempted to simultaneously head-butt and hump me.  I even waved at a gentleman who scowled since I blocked the road as he tried to make his way into work.  To you, sir, you are welcome for the excellent story I am sure you told at the office this morning!  And to all of you, hoping desperately for a moral to this sordid tale, here it is:  All the time – and mostly in spring – use a very stout lock on your gates.  And don’t, my goodness, don’t expect the animals to miss you once they’ve sprung your joint.  Chances are good the ungrateful jerks will only resent that you’ve found them.



Barnyard, Cows, Dairy


  • Cheryl in Texas

    April 11, 201410:56 am

    I enjoyed reading your tale! We’re going through something similar! We just got cows for the first time – a cow and a baby bull. Ugh. Momma cow (not baby bull’s momma) decided she had had enough of being penned up at the new place, so she trampled down the fencing we had up for a temporary enclosure. With 10 acres of green grass at least a foot tall, I guess she wanted to see/taste it all. Except little man got out too…and of course didn’t break through the fence to the good neighbors’ place but had to go to the bad neighbors’ place. And proceeded to go hang out with their bull!!! Guess he’s missing his daddy. UGH! Bad neighbor was actually gracious (for once) and we still have to go roust him back tonight after work (tried, but it didn’t happen last night). But how are we going to keep him in??? We worked so hard and so long to have some cows. And these were what were available to us to buy. What have we gotten ourselves in to?! Thanks for sharing your story…at least I know we’re not the only ones!! :)

  • Tiffany Speake

    April 11, 201410:29 am

    Love this story and your writing style. Our animals seem to find such joy in escaping their mundane, well trod enclosures. Even my dogs cavort and act like its a party when I let them out into our front yard as I get the mail. So glad you got everyone home safe!

  • Wendy Curling

    April 10, 20142:13 pm

    Too, too funny! I have my first cow on the way in a few months. Lord only knows the adventures that await. Great story!

  • Jamie Jackson

    April 10, 20147:49 am

    I’ve had some of that asshole livestock myself. Reminded me of the escape of a horse I had- an ex racehorse. At one point he walked around inside a house that was being built down the road. Left hoof prints all over. I’m sure that had the people wondering. Glad everyone was found safe!

    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:01 am

      OMG!!!! Jamie, that is HILARIOUS, although scary, I’m sure, but – hoof prints in the house. Can you imagine the work crew’s expression when they first saw that?!!!

  • Jenny

    April 10, 20144:58 am

    We had a neighbor’s renegade beef cows in our yard – many years ago! It did not end well! They took down some of our fence. The worse fear was an innocent driver hitting them if they ended up on the road!?? I’m so happy all ended so well!! Perhaps one needs to be fitted w/a cow bell?? Let’s hope they don’t repeat this little escapade!

    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:02 am

      All jokes aside, it is very scary, and it is very dangerous. In fact the only serious car accident I’ve been in was because a black Angus cow was standing in the middle of a dark country road, and I didn’t see her. But I’m also happy this ended well! They will be tagged for sure.

  • Meredith

    April 9, 20147:06 pm

    This story is the BEST! I’m so glad it had a happy ending, and yes, livestock are total assholes when they escape. I could just see them stopping mid chew and staring at you, hoping they hadn’t been spotted, as if you’re a t-rex and would lose sight of animals frozen in time. Too funny!


    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:03 am

      It was really very funny the way they stood there so still – as if there was a chance at ALL that maybe we didn’t see them. Such big jerks!

  • Lisa @ My Ordinary Country Life

    April 9, 20145:42 pm

    Laughing so hard here…….great, great story!!! My dad once owned cows and I know exactly what you mean. Brought back memories….I won’t say good…:)
    Love your writing style……I will be your newest follower!

    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:03 am

      Thanks so much Lisa and welcome!!!

  • SarinOz

    April 9, 20145:31 pm

    I’m so sorry, but I found this HILARIOUS!

    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:03 am

      Don’t apologize, I’m glad it had a happy ending :)

  • Rachael Taylor

    April 9, 20145:25 pm

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

    Between picturing the Cattle Samba, their faces when you found them, and the lollygagging you must have done on your way home I am literally smiling from ear to ear.

    And also in my scenario you are wearing a houndstooth coat and using a magnifying glass to follow the trail of poop and tracks. Ha!

    • jennakl

      April 10, 201410:04 am

      I absolutely felt like the Livestock Poop Detective (LPT, at your service!). Do you think I could make money off of this? Am I on to something here?!!!