Through the Fence 12-7-09 |

Through the Fence 12-7-09

Jesus said that His sheep would hear His voice and would follow Him. The idea is that a shepherd spends so much time with his flock, that they have a familiarity with him that allows him to guard and protect them effectively.

I have enjoyed that kind of intimacy with many of our farm animals, with each group having their own special call – goats, cows, and chicken. Living out in the “sticks” made it easy to lose what little personal dignity I had. There was no one nearby, except my children, to be embarrassed in front of, so I was free to holler, cluck, yodel and trill at the top of my lungs to call them. I like to think they came to me because they knew my voice and not to find an open feedbag.

Our children recognize their summons, too, even in a crowded place. My call to them could be publicly humiliating, so they run to me when they first hear it. My husband has a particular whistle instead. Once, we were at a livestock barn getting our show goats validated. There were dozens of sheep and goats bawling and bleating, diesel trucks running, and kids hollering. When it was our turn in line, my husband needed the children to sign a form. He whistled for them once, and all three instantly appeared out of the crowd. The onlookers were amazed.

My daughter’s boyfriend, Trey, who works on his grandfather’s ranch, told me about an incident involving cow calling. He had moved all the mama cows and calves to a different pasture. Since some of the baby calves were still very young, and he wanted to make sure that all of them had been matched up before closing the gate. The next day, Trey noticed a 2-day-old baby all alone, lingering behind in the old pasture. The calf seemed to be healthy and was tame enough to be approached. Since it didn’t weigh more than 70 pounds, he scooped it up easily, laid it on the tailgate of the truck and drove into the adjoining field to find its mother.

He laid the baby calf out in the open behind the truck and drove forward about a hundred yards and waited. Not seeing any of the cows nearby, he decided to start bawling like a newborn calf. According to him, since he’d had lots of practice, he could imitate a baby calf very well. The mother cows didn’t recognize the imposter’s voice. Trey’s call was authentic and convincing, because, within minutes several mama cows came trotting up. They all came over to check out the little calf lying alone in the grass. They sniffed and licked and sniffed some more, but none made a move to claim the baby. Trey waited but started getting impatient when the cows started wandering off.

He walked back over to the calf, knelt down and started petting it. That must have been the magic signal. One of the mother cows lowered her head and charged him. That was, in fact, her baby. She made that perfectly clear to Trey, who, by that time was sprinting toward his truck. The faster he ran, the closer the mama cow seemed to get. As he neared the truck, he stole a glance over his shoulder, hoping she wasn’t gaining too much ground. He could see her eyes wide with anger and her nostrils flaring. He could almost feel her hot breath on his back.

He jerked the door open, jumped in and slammed it quickly. The offended mother cow looked at him blankly through the windshield, snorted and turned around. She trotted back to her calf that was already on its feet calling for her return. In a moment, it had found the comfort of her udder, but Trey was still panting from his panicky run. He was just trying to reunite a mother and baby and had nearly gotten stomped in the process.

He drove back and shut the gate at last, wondering if he had practiced his calf bawling enough or perhaps too much.

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