Unlike many of our friends and acquaintances, we've kept a landline despite the fact that most calls ringing through on our old phone come when we are in the middle of a meal and are from telephone sales representatives located in other countries. However, calls that come later than the ten o-clock news tend to be: 1) from people in our same area code (this includes the sheriff's department) and 2) tell us about cattle that are not where they should be. Last night at about 10:30 pm, the old phone rang, and I could tell by the look on my husband's face the message was not a happy one. A hereford cow and two angus cross heifers had escaped by ducking under a cable stretched across a dried up creekbed, and were grazing along the railroad track in an adjacent pasture.
Most of our cattle are black, thus are very hard to see at night. A black cow on a highway or even along a country road poses a terrible danger to drivers, and so a "you have cattle out" call that comes after the sun has set makes Farmer John move quickly to grab his spotlight, don his boots, and out the door he goes. In the past, my job has been to stay home and pray for the welfare of both Farmer John and those in his path (including the errant cattle). Last night, in a flush of "I'm helping on the farm now" dedication, I unwisely decided to ride along.
Early in our marriage I had accompanied Farmer John on similar expeditions, but I had forgotten, I really had forgotten the terrors of bouncing through an unfamiliar pasture at high speeds chasing cattle who do not want to be caught. At least Farmer John's pickup has seatbelts now, and so I fastened myself in. A seatbelt keeps your head from bouncing off the ceiling of the truck while traversing ditches at high speeds, and headrests are great comfort when the truck goes from 60 mph to 0 mph in 1.2 seconds.
My job was to wield the spotlight. I don't think I did too badly but there were a couple of tactical errors. One was when I decided to open the door quickly in order to discourage a cow that was trying to rush past our truck on the passenger side. When Farmer John heard the door open he thought I was getting out. It warms my heart that although he was in the midst of a high speed chase and had entered that adrenalin fueled state of battle readiness that can turn the nicest man into an order shouting drill sergeant, he nevertheless did not want to see his wife trampled by a thousand pound critter or run down by a pickup. He brought the truck to a complete halt and clutched at his heart. He gasped for air a couple of times and I stared at him apprehensively. But, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, time has mellowed Farmer John. When he could speak without yelling, he just said, in measured tones, "Do Not Get Out of The Truck." And then we were off once more.
My second error occurred when I helpfully attempted to shine the spotlight out the driver's side door. The bright light blinded Farmer John completely for a few seconds. "Sorry, I'm sorry!" I said quickly. He didn't say anything, but he also did not slow down at all.
Finally, John brought the truck to a stop, got out, and had a conversation with the three cows. They associate his voice with the sweet taste of corn chop, and they calmed immediately. He explained to them that they really didn't want to be where they were, and urged them on toward the open gate. On foot, in the dark, he pushed them along and after a few further adventures I won't detail here, they returned to their own pasture.
It is truly to my husband's credit that on the way home he patted my hand and said, in a kind tone of voice, "Thanks for your help, Hon."
This morning we returned to that pasture and fixed the fence, and everything should be ok now. But the next time we get one of those late night calls I think maybe I'll just stay home and pray for Farmer John. Regardless of how nice he was about the whole episode last night, praying is probably how I can help the most when the cattle are out.