It was a fine summer, and Francis Dufresne’s beef cattle were out foraging in the rich meadows behind his farm. They were used to wandering far afield and fending for themselves; no need to return to the farmyard for food when there was a lot to eat back in the bush. They meandered their way to the back side of his property, where they found a fence in a somewhat weak state.
If Bill Watterson is correct about the behavior of cows when they are not being watched, these ones probably debated about the best way to get that fence down so they could get to the grass on the other side. One may presume that they got their biggest bull to come and lean on that already leaning fencepost until it was down low enough for them to step over it without hurting themselves. Ahhh! Freedom! They moved on thru the meadow until they came to a cultivated hay field, where they began to enjoy themselves. This was even better food than usual!
Someone from our house looked out across the field and saw a large band of Hereford cattle spreading out across it, having a good lunch. Once we identified where they came from, Dad and Mom rallied the kids and got us to herd them out of the field through the gate, out the driveway, and back up the road toward the Dufresne farm. When the cows learned that the gig was up, most of them co-operated with us and started following the desired path. But one cow and her calf lagged behind; she was more interested in grazing than moving. By the time she looked up the rest of the cows had gone through the gate and were marching along the driveway. She ran to catch up, but in doing so she missed the gate and ran further down the field with her calf. Seeing a fence between her and her friends, she did what she had been doing before; she stopped to graze. There is one in every crowd…
“Jamie, run down into that end of the field and herd her back out of there. We will set guards along the way that she came to keep her from going back that way.”
“Ok!” And off I ran, taking the long way so as to get on the other side of her.
I had been on the farm about a year by this time, but I was still quite uneducated in the ways of cows, especially ones with calves. I had not observed that look a cow gets in her eye when somebody or something threatens her calf, and I didn’t observe it this time either. I had herded our docile bunch of milk cows before, but this was my first experience with a beef cow.
I armed myself with clods of dirt and a couple sticks to throw at her, so as to frighten her into the right direction, and I headed out into the field, which was probably 150 yards across at that point. She was out in the middle, and I approached her till she was probably 30 feet away. I hollered at her to move, but she just stood there looking at me.
That was why I brought along the clods, as a secondary means of persuasion. I threw one at her, and it hit her on the shoulder. Her nostrils flared, and she looked hard at me, then pawed the ground. I threw another clod; same results, a low moo and a belligerent pawing of the ground.
I had never seen this sort of thing before, and I had obviously not read any of the right sort of books, the ones that would start ringing alarm bells… I used one of my sticks, which bounced off her nose and caused her to paw the ground again. “Stupid cow!” thought I. “She doesn’t respond to my yells! I’m going to have to get more clods!”
I threw my last stick with a yell, and she put down her head and charged me. I remember being really surprised, then turning tail and running as fast as I could, which was hopelessly slow compared to her… I didn’t run long before I tripped over a clod and fell flat on the ground. I was expecting to be trampled by this monster, but God, thankfully, had other plans for me. He must have told her to leave me alone and to go where she was supposed to go, because she turned around, called her calf, and walked right out the gate without a fuss.