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7/28/2004

Don't Fence Me In

One thing about raisin’ cattle is the unpredictable nature of the business. When yer dealin’ with live animals ya never know what might happen next. Yesterday afternoon around 4:30 I received a call from a neighbor. “Ya got cattle out in the neighbor’s milo!” Now, some folks might not know what milo is. It is an African crop that was brought to the United States as a feed crop. It may not be quite as nutritious for our animals as corn, but it is generally very drought hardy and produces more abundantly under dry Kansas conditions than corn, so ya see a lot of acres of milo grown in Kansas.  
Anyways, having yer cows grazing on someone else’s crop isn’t exactly the best way to keep up friendly relations! Wouldn’t ya know… I had customers here at Drovers Mercantile to tend to. They were “just looking” but I’m not one for hustlin’ people out the door, so I jest fidgeted whilst they browsed. Somewhere’s around 20 minutes later they were passing down the street and I was lockin’ up and turnin’ out lights.  
As I drove through the pasture I noted the lush grass and was talkin’ to myself about how, "... no matter how good yer grass is some cows always seem to be lookin’ over the fence." At the top of the hill I could see the cattle just on the other side of the south fence. Luckily, just beyond the fence was an ungrazed prairie hay field, so I wasn’t going to have to chase them out of the milo after all. Looked like this was going to be easy. All I needed to do was pull up near the fence with the pickup and coax them through to this side with a feed sack.  
As I drew near the fence I could tell what had transpired. There were 3 cows, 3 calves and 2 bulls. Those bulls were just lazin’ around just on the other side of a fence that was laying flat on the ground with a couple of broken posts. I’ve seen this more than once in my life. It usually occurs between two bulls on opposite sides of the fence. They get to shoving heads through the fence and pretty soon they’ve torn the fence completely down. These animals are so powerful! They don’t even realize how powerful they are! Fences only fake them out, for if he wanted to any bull can lay a fence down in seconds.  
I got them across the fence and back on my side and in the process learned the cause of my bull’s ornery ways. One of the cows was “bulling”. Fer city folks that means she was in heat. Them bulls were jest feelin’ amorous! She had been hanging out near the fence and in an effort to show off a little the bulls were playfully pushing each other around and had run right over the fence in the process. I tried to run them off toward the middle of the pasture so I could get some fence fixed but that cow kept returning to the fenceline bringing those rambunctious bulls along with her! 
One more time, I turned them north and this time I followed them about a quarter of a mile into the pasture in hopes that they would stay out there and allow me to fix that fence. But, when I turned to return to the fence my heart gave out a thump. From here I could see more cows and they WERE out in the milo after all.  
There wasn’t time to get a horse. I lowered the wires that I had already strung back up and walked slowly in a big circle to get around them. Once they saw me coming up from the other side they turned and walked easily toward the open fence. They knew where they had gotten out. It all worked out better than I had expected and soon I was back to stringing up the wire.  
My son, Michael, showed up about that time having received word of the wayward cows. With his help the fence was just about back to normal in no time. I say “just about” because as it goes with stories like this there was definitely more to this story.  
Those cows and bulls sure enough found their way back to the fence. We continued fixing as the bulls drew near. I remarked to Michael that I wouldn’t be surprised if they got to fighting and pushed it all down again. We laughed.  
No more than three minutes later, they started to push each other playfully. Michael had time to say something like, “uh, oh” and as I looked up one of the bulls was being pushed back into the fence. I yelled to no avail. Suddenly the animals were churning and whirling. Fence posts were popping and wire was flailing into the air. I was able to get around them and finally hearing my voice they turned and ran north away from what only seconds before had been a perfectly serviceable fence!  
Michael jumped in his truck and herded them away this time taking them about a half mile away. The rest of the evening we saw no more of them and as the sunlight was fading into darkness we finally had our fence back up. The whole episode was frustrating but throughout it all we had a beautiful evening to work. The grass was green, the breeze cool, the horizon just about as beautiful a scene as anyone could want to view. So, there you have it. In the end, the unexpected nature of the cattle business put Michael and I in touch with an unexpected satisfaction of living close to a real world that fewer and fewer people get a chance to enjoy. I guess we couldn’t be all that mad at the bulls, they were jest showin’ off fer the lady. Its all jest a part of life out here beyond the sidewalks. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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