Finding the Fugitives

I prepared myself for the evening chores as I took a moment to change gears after work and let my phone charge for a few minutes. I had nearly decided to go change for my farm chores when, at 5:28pm, my phone began to ring. I stared at it on my desk. The number appeared on the screen before my phone was able to find the number in my contacts. Seeing the name on the screen brought my heart directly into my throat. “She only calls if they’re out,” was all I could think. I answered the phone, “Are they out?” My fears were confirmed and my clothes were changed faster than ever before.

I ran out of the house, planning my next moves as quickly as possible. I threw feed into a bucket, filling it far higher than for a normal evening snack. I ran to my truck and chucked the bucket into the back, then throwing myself into the truck and hit that gas, trying not to kick stones off the driveway. I barreled my way the 5.5 miles and pulled into my friend’s driveway. I found her talking to a man and rolled down my window. “Where are they? Did you see them?” I tried to be polite, but every second mattered. I had only two hours until it began to get dark.

They directed me as to where to go and gave me a phone number. The man asked if I had any ropes, which I denied. He told me he’d meet me there with some rope, so I thanked him and got myself turned around and back on the road. Thankfully, it was only a few miles up the road. But unfortunately, it was a few miles up the road!

I called the number as I drove into the driveway and was told that the man’s wife would meet me at the house. I threw the truck into park and leapt out, grabbing the bucket of feed on my way around the truck. The woman came around the front of the house, “They’re down here. You may want to drive.” So, back into the truck I went to drive over to the neighbor’s house one driveway up the lane. Those neighbors met us outside as I again grabbed my bucket of feed, coming round the back of the house to find my two fugitive cattle.

“They’ve been walking back and forth between our houses all day!” The neighbor began to explain to me. The first woman told me how she had called the police and animal control. “No one cared. I posted on facebook, but no one knew where they had come from!” We made small talk as we waited for the man to arrive with rope and I continued to give my heifers handfuls of feed to keep them nearby. One person suggested trying to put a rope around one of them. I tried the friendlier one, Black Licorice, but she became spooked and her sister even more so!

I went back to feeding them grain as the man with the ropes drove up. I explained what we had tried and the difficulty of these crazy cattle. He told me he had a trailer, but his truck’s hitch was messed up and couldn’t haul it. Another neighbor who had come over on her 4-wheeler stated that she had a truck that could haul it. So they went off on her 4-wheeler. She came back and laughed about letting a stranger drive off with her truck.

I kept giving the heifers handfuls of grain as I anxiously waited for the trailer, worrying about how we might get them into the trailer. Eventually, someone brought out pretzels as dinner time was passing us by. The neighbors laughed about the cattle having taken up residence in their yard, enjoying the shade and the salt lick. “We brought them some water and could tell they were tame since they didn’t run off.” I told the neighbors about their skittish nature and the difficulty of loading them on a trailer; that they were friendly, but certainly not quite tame!

Finally, the trailer arrived. The cattle and I heard it at the same time. Their ears went back and their tails went up. Milk Chocolate was headed for the woods while Black Licorice grabbed one more mouthful of grain before trotting after her sister. We attempted to coax Licorice back towards the trailer as they opened the door. The group spread out to encourage them towards the trailer, but Licorice followed her sister out into the scrub. Two people got on 4-wheelers and one man grabbed a stick. I realized then that one woman was in flip-flops and a dress, but she was through the scrubby underbrush just as quickly as I was.

We circled around behind them, urging them back towards the trailer, but once they arrived at the edge of the scrub, they refused to cross the dirt path back into the yard. They turned and ran into the woods instead. One of the 4-wheelers went on the path through the woods and pushed them back out the other side. The group of us became more and more spread out as the cattle ran around the front of the house, away from the trailer. They ran down the hill, crossed a creek, and entered the neighboring property.

We managed to push them back across the creek while one man drove the trailer down into the field. He parked it and we encircled the two drooling, heaving fugitives. They stood with their sides pressed to one another’s, facing opposite directions to watch us. I used the “phone a friend” option and texted two friends for help. One responded that she was on her way. I was tired from running, but focused on my goal and racking my brain for solutions.

We all had our arms out to the sides, standing in a large circle around Milk Chocolate and Black Licorice as we urged them towards the open trailer. At times they pushed us back, but we slowly made progress. I attempted to lure Licorice towards the trailer with grain and made slightly more progress. But soon we were at a stalemate. I attempted to push them, a move that showed my desperation. I stood with my body pressed firmly against Licorice’s side, hip to hip, with my knees bent just in the off chance that she attempted to kick me. She wouldn’t budge, so I eventually backed away and we tightened the circle more.

At that moment, Milk Chocolate decided she had rested long enough and she tore through the circle. Licorice hesitated only a moment before leaping after her sister, the two of them racing down the hill, through the creek, and up the next hill. At this point, I was told that some of the group had to go and the one man said he needed his truck back, which meant the trailer had to go as well. One man suggested we just walk them home. I was skeptical, but flat out of options. Our group slowly disbanding, I ran after my cattle.

Reaching the top of the hill, exasperated and losing any hope of retrieving my cattle, I asked the man and woman on the 4-wheeler if they knew were the heifers had gone. “Into the woods.” It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. “Know anyone with a tranquilizer gun?” I asked through gritted teeth. The woman pulled out her phone and made a call. I was doubtful, but she asked the person on the other end of the phone anyway, coming up empty. I checked the time and realized my friend should be arriving any second, so I quickly called to let her know that we were no longer at the address I had given her. She told me where they were and I ran down the hill to meet them at the cross street to direct them.

I made it down the hill and told them about the cattle running into the woods. We headed up the hill and suddenly I saw three people, arms outstretched, coming down the hill. In the dim light, that was all I saw, but I knew what it meant. “There are my cows!” I whisper yelled at my friend. “You can’t see them, but they’re there! They found them!” I directly my friend’s daughters up along the side to keep the cattle from going to the road before we were ready. One person was in a car, keeping traffic from coming up over the hill and hitting someone. However, the other side was not guarded for us, so two cars came upon the crazy seen of a hoard of people chasing invisible (all black) cows around the woods and onto the street. Apparently, the one person rolled up their windows before being able to drive away.

We managed to guide the cows down the hill, but the overshot and wen straight into the woods along the creek. Thanks to quick thinking, my friend had brought along her handheld spotlight. She and her husband hopped the ditch and ran into the woods, pushing the cattle back to the road. Again they overshot and we weaved our way back and forth before the two fugitives suddenly appeared to have an epiphany and began trotting down the long driveway towards their pasture. I had brought up my map and saw that this driveway would lead them straight home and yelled ahead directions. I called ahead to the land owners “Open the gates. They’re coming home! We are walking them back!” The gates were opened and the now fully freaked out fugitives ran through the gate and straight to the creek to gulp down fresh water. I nearly joined them!

The girls might have been back home, but things weren’t safe just yet. The mystery of their escape still needed to be solved. My farmer friend began walking with some others and her bright light, checking the fence while I asked to be taken back to my truck. I found a ride back to my truck and came back to fix the fence. We found two spots the deer had destroyed, one spot where they came in and one were they left, dragging the electric fencing with them at a spot where the woven wire fence was pushed down.

I thanked my friends and neighbors and went home for supplies for the demolished fence. I hurried back, checked to be sure I found both sets of eyes and then re-secured the fence. Before I left, I scolded my crazy heifers and thanked them for coming home, asking them to stay home for just six more weeks. They looked at me, bored and worn out. I finally went home to calm myself down and get to sleep after the 4 hour ordeal of a new version of rodeo.

The mug shot I managed to snap prior to the trailer’s arrival.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Fugitives

  1. Glad you got them got caught back up. I have a neighbor like that who I know only cows when the cows are out and dread seeing her number pop up on the phone. Pickle juice is good for cramps after a long day of chasing cows šŸ˜‰

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