From the moment the neighbor called to say that our cattle were on his property around the corner, I knew I did not have a good plan for getting them home. They were apparently in his orchard, which is probably only a quarter mile as the crow flies (over the creek and through the woods), but traveling on the roads, it is a mile away. After we arrived at his place, he showed us where they were. Jaxon wears a collar, and I had brought a lead rope to attach. For Bridget, I had brought a two-gallon stainless steel pot with alfalfa cubes in it to lure her back. The pot was demoted to barnware after it sprang a leak during maple syrup season.
It became obvious fairly quickly that this was going to be a long ordeal. Jaxon didn't want to walk on the lead rope, and Bridget was only somewhat interested in the alfalfa cubes. And did I mention that her calf was also with them? I assumed he would follow the grown-ups. The neighbor said that his tenant had told him there was also a brown cow, but we couldn't see her anywhere.
Bridget is the cow with the big horns, and the whole time I was walking backwards down the neighbor's quarter mile driveway with an alfalfa cube in my hand, I kept hearing blogpal Miss Effie saying, "Girlfriend, did you see those horns?" I hear ya, Miss Eff, I see those horns, and I am so happy that the stainless steel pot was demoted to the barn because I think it is about as wide as Bridget's horns are long. Mind you, Bridget is as sweet as a cow can be, but if she were to get overly excited and come running and not be able to stop quickly enough . . . well, then I start hearing the voice of that hen in the animated movie, Chicken Run. "I saw me life flash before me eyes!" So, I made sure the pot was always between me and Bridget, just to be safe.
When we finally got to the road, I ran back up the driveway to get my car and drive it out to the road. It had become obvious that it would take both Jonathan and me to get everyone home. I drove the car a little past Jonathan and the cattle and pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car, and got out to help him move everyone a little farther down the road. When Bridget saw her reflection in my car, she didn't want to walk past it, but I finally coaxed her around it. And Jaxon kept stopping, so I would get behind him and push his back end while Jonathan pulled on the lead rope.
Things went fairly well until we got to the neighbor's house on the corner. I don't know what was so enticing about their yard, but Bridget kept trying to go into their backyard. Although I managed to stop her from doing that, we did wind up cutting through their front yard. As we began heading down our road towards home, I suggested Jonathan go get my car. I took Jaxon's lead rope, and Jonathan took off running. I turned my back towards Jaxon, and leaned foward, putting all my weight into dragging him down the road. It went well. It's going too well, I thought. No, no, I argued with myself. Jaxon is just getting better at walking on lead. But with me focusing on Jaxon, Bridget started to wander off into the ditch and then behind weeds that were taller than she was. I called her name several times, but she was nowhere to be seen. Jaxon was trucking along at the best speed of our entire jaunt, so I did not want to stop. But I didn't feel like I had much choice. I had to find Bridget and get her back on track. I tied Jaxon's lead rope to a fence post on the side of the road and went running into the weeds to find Bridget just as Jonathan showed up. Then I realized that Bridget was going to a pond. Who knew when she last had a drink of water, so she was obviously thirsty. I told Jonathan to take Jaxon and head down the road with him.
Everything gets a little fuzzy at this point. There was lots of running, and I kept hearing that hen from Chicken Run! "I saw me life flash before me eyes!" I saw Jaxon come bolting out of the woods a few hundreds yards from where he was supposed to be. Then I see Jonathan still hanging on to the other end of the lead rope, running behind Jaxon. I started making that horrible noise -- you know the one that makes bystanders ask, "Are you laughing or crying?" Amazingly Jonathan got Jaxon under control again, but a few minutes later, the whole scene was repeated in reverse. Jaxon ran into the woods with Jonathan behind him. I realized that I didn't have my cell phone to call for help, and I would never be able to get Jonathan out of the woods if he got injured. Then I saw Jaxon come running out of the woods again with Jonathan still in tow. By the time Jonathan got Jaxon under control, we were so far from the road, it would have been a huge waste of time to go back the way we came. Jonathan, who had just been dragged through the woods three times, said that there was a four-wheeler trail that led straight to the road, so we agreed that he'd take the cows through there, and I'd go back to the car and drive it forward a bit more.
After driving the car past the other end of the trail, I walked back to the opening in the trees and waited for Jonathan and the cattle. After a few minutes, I called his name, and he yelled back, "I'm coming." I knew we had to come up with a new plan. Bridget was stuffed with alfalfa cubes, so they weren't working any longer, and she was only mildly interested in following Jaxon. I told Jonathan that next time we walked past the car, I would get in and drive very slowly behind him and hopefully that would push the cows to continue walking. We were within spitting distance of our western property line, but we were still about a tenth of a mile from the nearest gate, and across the road was a field full of soybeans and then corn. How would we ever get Bridget out of there? Then I realized that she has never had grain, and it is an acquired taste. So, if we're lucky, she'll just keep walking, I thought. Although Bridget kept walking, Jaxon stopped twice, so I had to get out of the car and push him to get him going again.
Finally, we could see our driveway ahead. I pushed the button to open the gate, and Jonathan led Jaxon through, and then after briefly hesitating, Bridget went through, and her calf followed. I pulled my car into the driveway and stopped as I waited for the gate to close -- just in case anyone had any second thoughts and turned around to head back out onto the road.
We still had to get everyone into a secure pasture, and I suddenly got the brilliant idea to use fly spray to make them move. It's just soapy water, but I think the cows hate the "psht" sound it makes when I spray. So I went and got my spray bottle and stood behind Jaxon. When Jonathan pulled on the lead rope, I started spraying, and Jaxon started walking. It worked brilliantly. We had to get them through the barn to get to the pasture, and as we were taking Jaxon through, Bridget came into the front of the barn. I went back and slipped behind her and started spraying and she started trotting through the barn. Worked like a charm.
The whole time we were heading towards home, we kept thinking about Molly. Where was she, and how would we find her, and how would we get her home? As soon as we had Jaxon, Bridget, and the calf in the pasture, we heard a moo coming from across the creek. It sounded close so Jonathan went to check it out, and it was Molly with her calf.
So, I can now say that the whole thing ended with no injuries to human or cattle, and we got an hour and a half of good exercise. I have no idea how they escaped because Mike just walked the fenceline yesterday and pronounced it perfectly sound. One thing that kept going through my head again and again was, what would I have done if I had been home alone?