This year we found out that we own the smartest cow in all of North America. As this cow grazed on the fresh grasses of summer time, she put on a beautiful amount of weight but unfortunately in the end, it didn't matter .
Butchering date for both the pigs and the cows arrived in the middle of November. Since we don't have an animal barn, cornering and capturing the animals and then luring them onto the back of a trailer becomes quite an adventure. Its all "hands on deck" as we coral the animals and usually the man we hire to bring the animals to the butchers is relieved when he is done with our family's hobby farm. A series of mishaps from year to year has led to a certain dread of this day. This year, however, Adam built two pens at the back of the field and fed the animals there for some weeks before butchering date arrived so that the animals would be familiar to the area.
This year, without any trouble, all of the animals were caught, cornered, and corralled; ready to load onto the truck. For once the pigs behaved beautifully and walked right up the ramp into the back of the trailer. With a big relieved smile, we turned to the cows.
This is when chaos erupted. The cows panicked and the leader cow plowed down the gate with the help of her three friends. In a few quick moments the cows had the gate laying on the ground and in record time, took refuge in the far corners of the field. We spent an hour trying to coral them again but it was no use. I cancelled the cows' butchering date.
Two weeks later, butchering date #2 arrived. Now these cows had become suspicious and we knew it was going to take some convincing to get the cows locked up in their shelter. (We abandoned the make -shift pen idea and decided to catch them in the shelter where they rest).
I texted my cousin- born in Alberta I figured he must have a lasso. Sure enough...within a half hour he arrived complete with all of the gear. The morning was spent trying to move these cows towards the shelter or into a corner of the field, or something! I am not sure because nothing seemed to work.
At one point, my dad who had been observing our futile attempts of catching these cows couldn't take it anymore and headed into the muddy fields with his suede shoes on. Trying to help, he picked up a stick, gingerly crossed over the stream, and headed toward the stand- off with the cows.
Watching the next scene was like viewing the funniest sight of your life happen right in front of you. The cows suddenly spooked and bolted towards my dad , two on either side of him. My dad; a business man, an elder in our church, a father of four girls, performed some sort of karate move with his stick that I had never seen before. I don't think my mom had either because she was shouting with laughter.
The cows ran and spread through out the field and held fast.
"Catch those Cows" Attempt Number 2 was called off.
What would of happened if you caught a cow with that lasso I inquired. "It would of been like waterskiing on dry land." was Al's response.
On Sunday morning I told Adam that if he was to do the opening/welcome for church, he should invite everyone over and try to round up this last cow. That didn't happen but our faithful friends came afterwards, changed into their farming gear and bribed the leader cow with some delicious looking alfalfa. The cow stood firm. Cow-catching attempt #3 was called off.
We were slowly becoming cow obsessed.
Three cows were brought to the butcher on Monday morning but the leader cow remained looking awfully smug.
During the next few weeks we became even more cow obsessed. The colder weather had descended, snow covered the fields, and now this smart cow was starting to cost us money because we had to feed her.
We wanted this cow gone.
And this is when the cow catching story takes on a whole new level.
Here are our many cow catching attempts.
1. Late in the evening Adam dresses in all black and hides behind the cow shelter. After an hour the cow finally meanders over and almost makes it into the shelter but decides to do a walk around the shelter coming nose to nose with Adam and then takes off. Adam is now getting very frustrated.
2. Adam, again dressed in black, sneaks over to the neighbours, climbs the fence and does an army crawl through the field. With a headset set securely on his head, our oldest son talks into his ear giving him the location and details of the cow's actions. Adam makes it over to the shelter only for the cow to discover and snort at him once again.
3. Now I am driving Adam over to the neighbours so the cow doesn't see Adam hurdle himself over the fence. Once again the army crawl and the waiting by the shelter is for nothing when the smart cow does her walk around the shelter carefully sniffing.
4. Now Adam is trying to get to the shelter from a different entrance. I see the cow go into the shelter, which hardly happens, and quickly call Adam who is working nearby in the shop. I whisper the cow's location to Adam. We have an unsettled feeling that the cow can hear us. Adam bundles up against the winter cold and starts his field-crawling once again towards the shelter. Adam has hardly made any progress when the cow walks out of the shelter and GRINS at Adam. Yes, we are convinced the cow can hear us.
5. This cow is getting into Adam's brain. Adam just has to think about catching the cow and it walks out of the shelter smirking.
6. Now it's mid December we have another butchering date. We are desperate to catch this cow by Monday morning and send it off to its deserved ending.
Adam has installed a gate in the shelter, tied a rope from the gate in the shelter and buried the rope through the snow. He has dragged an old work trailer near to the cow shelter so that he can hide in the trailer holding onto the rope. As soon as the cow enters the shelter he just has to give the rope a hard jerk and the gate will close capturing the cow. Everything is well thought out. Adam had even drilled a little hole through the trailer so he can see what was going on outside.
His plan was to hide in the trailer and stay in there until the cow eventually got hungry and would go into the shelter for food.
Right after church I packed Adam his supper and he bundled up against the cold. We sent a boy outside to make a lot of racket to distract the cow while Adam crawled along the field and snuck into the trailer. Earlier he had set up a lawnchair in the trailer and brought blankets determined to be comfortable in case this was going to be a long ordeal. As soon as he quietly sat in his lawn chair he realized he drilled the hole too low. With a groan he realizes this could be an uncomfortable evening. And this is when it gets crazy.
For the next 4.5 hours while darkness covered the land, Adam sat and sat. With my head plastered against our house window, I texted Adam the location of the cow. Our boys were totally neglected as we embarked on this battle with the cow.
Supper was missed, bedtimes missed, and we forgot to pick up our oldest son from young peoples at church. Everything became intense! All evening long we watched the cow walk everywhere through the fields except head towards the cow shelter.
At one point Adam texted that he could hear the cow sniffing the trailer. "Nope", was my sad reply. The cow was way across the field. Adam realized he was hearing mice! He was sharing the trailer with mice!
Adam's texts were becoming unkind and none to gentle.
I was going crazy willing the cow to move to that shelter. The only way to describe it is if you have had a toddler who has locked himself in your car with your keys and you try desperately from the outside to get the child to move their hands just a smidgen to unlock the doors.This was the same frustrated feeling.
Through out the evening, texts came in from family and friends. They gave Adam suggestions to spray bull scent on, roll around in manure, sing to the cow and some were even bold enough to say that they were rooting for the cow!
It became late, and we finally gave up. Adam cold, discouraged, and frustrated, made his way to the house. No sooner had the field gate closed and then the cow made her way to the shelter quickly eating her dinner. Grrr.
January. The cow has been traumatized (and so have we!) and has refused to go into the shelter for cover and warmth. In the midst of the worst snow storms she has stood like a statue in the barren field. With the snow swirling around her, she remained fixed, staring straight into our living room window looking miserable, and making us feel extremely guilty. This felt even worse then loading up the animals for the butchers.
Fast forward to February. The cow has shrunk and looks like a cow from a third world country. We have faithfully fed and watered the cow in the midst of a cold, snowy winter but this cow is determined to stay away from the shelter.
And now at the end of February a shocking occurence has happened. The cow has let us pet her and is tame and docile. How did this happen?!
She heard Adam say, "I give up. The cow wins."