The proverbial "other side of the fence" always looks greener
There are few things I admire more than the sight of a four-wire pasture fence, fiddle-string tight with creosote posts marching in straight military precision. Alas, it is not a sight I see often. Certainly, not on our small farm/ranch where we can still find barbed wire dating back four generations. Oh, we have a few stretches of new fence, but it is far outnumbered by the mended and re-mended.
While I admire a good strong fence, a breachy cow or an amorous bull much perfer the “mended and re-mended.”
Ever notice a line of fence along a road where all the posts lean outward. Well, it is not from a strong wind. It is from cows putting their heads through the wires and pushing with all their might. Now, if the guilty critter is standing on ground that looks like it has been grazed by a herd of starving goats, she might have my sympathy. But nine times out of ten, the lady is standing in knee-high grass and simply wants to savor that on the other side of the fence!
Some critters are model citizens. Others get their “jollies” by aggravating their owners to death. Having dealt with cattle most of my life, I have collected a few stories I will share. Anyone who has raised livestock can match mine or do better with those of their own.
The “thorn in my side” at present is a mixed breed that produces a fine calf each year – hence, I am stuck with her. Hubby values her calves over my sanity that has always been questionable, anyway. I dubbed her, Fence Jumper, after her first few escapades. Fence Jumper is not truly a jumper. She is more of a “wallower.” She sticks her head over a fence and pushes until she breaks the top wire. She then wallows over the other wires. If some of these are broken in the process, other cows are apt to follow. Usually, she goes on her “outings” alone. Her calf seldom follows her. When she is stuffed with temptation, she wanders up to a gate and waits to be let in so her calf can nurse. Oh, but that cow can create strong emotions!
Through the years, we have had more problems with bulls than cows. As they say, “Raising cattle would not be difficult if it weren’t for the bulls.”
I’ve told in another story about a neighbor’s Longhorn bull that traveled across several pastures before settling down in ours. We got two crossbred heifers from that visit. Then there was a young Angus bull of ours that could leap a fence like a deer. We could check in the morning and he would be in our pasture. As soon as we’d left, he would leap over the fence to pay a visit to the adjoining neighbor’s herd. Neighbor would call – we would head down to get him out only to find him back in our pasture. Finally, the neighbor ignored him. As summer passed he decided to simply stay home.
Another bull we had was actually quite cooperative. We were checking fence one day and spotted the old bugger off on a hill in the neighbor’s pasture. We went ahead finishing what we were doing, planning to go get him when finished. Much to our surprise, he meandered down the hill and came to stand beside us waiting for us to make a “let-down” to let him back into our pasture.
As you well know this is not common behavior for a straying animal. No – they are far more apt to let you get the fence down in the vicinity where you hope to get them back through only to have them trot a quarter mile farther down the fence.
Last summer, a neighbor had a bull that, more or less, made his home in our herd. It was not for lack of trying. Neighbor came after the bull umpteen times. The visiting bull was gathered and taken home to be moved elsewhere. His challenger went around mumbling as bulls do then one day he was gone. He had crossed over into his adversary’s old domain. Did he miss him?
In the old days when nearly every place had a few cows, at least one would be what was called “breachy.” This was simply a cow that crawled through fences. Various means were used to keep such a critter where she belonged. A type of collar might be placed around her neck with an extension, top and bottom, to catch on the wires preventing her escape. My folks never used one and I don’t think they were very successful for anyone.
Have you ever noticed how some cows have learned the “limbo?” When electric fences are strung around cornstalks in the fall so cattle can feed on the stalks, observe. There are always one or two old gals that can get down on their knees and stretch their neck out beneath the wire nearly to their backs. They will stick their tongue out to grasp that elusive grass you would swear was beyond their reach. The same cow would not cross an electric wire you have let down for her to step over. She fears she will get a shock. But – she has no fear of getting a shock by stretching under the fence. Go figure!
Back when we had Hereford bulls, we penned a couple up in a pen that consisted of only electric fencing. During the period they were enclosed in this pen, they would push one another against the wire at times. Of course, this taught them that the wire would shock. They developed such a respect for that wire that when it was taken down, we had a dickens of a time getting them to cross the line where the wire had been.
This ends my tales of cattle and fences. I’ll think of more after I send this off. I hope it will cause you to recall and retell some stories of your own.
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