ranch life

On the Fence

It’s been a busy few days of ranching adventures around Red Bank Cattle Company! We started off the week on Monday with a nice, clean house because we had Steven’s family over for lunch after church on Sunday. What better way to start a Monday than everything clean and organized?? I got ready for the day before school drop off (sometimes I drop off and then come back and shower/ get ready depending on what I have going on for the day because drop off is so early), so I had just settled in the office at my desk with my grocery list for that afternoon, and my huge cup of coffee when Steven called me. A close friend with property south of us had left him a voicemail that there were some black cows roaming on the side of the road near the ranch. He asked me to check on them, although we both agreed there was a small likelihood they were ours. I begrudgingly left my organization, calm, and coffee in the office, gathered Henry (protesting to leave Jurassic Park), and drove two minutes east to find… our cows on the side of the road.

I immediately called Steven to tell him that they were, in fact, ours- five cows and our bull. Apparently, I need to work on my headline skills and delivery because I believe the first thing I said to him was “Dwayne is in the ditch!” and Steven replied “Dead?!?” with equal panic. I said, “No, just standing there, but he’s not where he should be!” Despite the fact that he would have probably preferred to be there tending to the cattle, he was actually in the middle of a morning of scheduled procedures and couldn’t really do much for me. He called his dad to meet me, and I walked across the county road to at least attempt to keep them out of the road until help could arrive.

While I was standing there, multiple people stopped to talk to me- a woman who works for our home builder, a woman who lives south of us near the friend that called us, and then a deputy with the sheriff’s department, who stopped to get it sorted with me. I spent the first several minutes wondering how in the world I was going to get them all back to our property (which seemed miles away from where we were), when a funny thing happened. As I walked up the side of the road, they started following. And before I knew it, all six of them were ahead of me, and walked back across the downed portion of the fence where they got out. The sheriff’s deputy and I climbed through the weeds and brush to our true fence line and made sure they were truly back on our property before heading back to the county road. And just as easily as they got out, they were back home!

Our property line runs over the Red Bank Creek and apparently our water gap (the type of fencing used over running water) had washed out, allowing them to walk up the dry creek bed onto the property south of us. This is a portion of their property that isn’t really used for anything because it’s the creek bed and thick brush, so the fence around this up to the road was old and in disrepair, allowing our adventurers to step right over and out into the freshly mowed ditch for a nice snack and a playdate with the herd that lives immediately south (they were all mingling at the fence and luckily hadn’t tried to get any closer to one another).

Steven’s dad met me a little bit later with protein cubes to feed them down by the lake (about as far as we could get them from where they got out), in hopes of keeping them occupied until we could put something over the water gap and have a little more security that they wouldn’t have a repeat escape. That night after work, Steven brought in a round bale of hay to continue occupying them, and then he and I tossed fencing supplies and pen panels over the fence at the road and made a makeshift water gap across the creek. At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but think about the random person in grad school that told me I should marry that medical student because doctors’ wives don’t have to work. She could not have been more wrong.

Bright and early on Tuesday, we launched into a normal day- dropped Liv at school, went to Pilates while Henry hung out with Gran and Bud (he starts back to preschool next week), errands and lunch with Steven in town, and then school pick up and getting ready for Henry’s first soccer practice that evening at 5:40. One of our local livestock auctions runs their sale on Wednesdays, and we’d been putting off gathering up our spring calves to sell for a few weeks and felt like it was finally time to just get it done. After a swelteringly hot soccer practice (I’m pretty sure I literally told Henry I was baking like a toasted cheeser at one point), we quickly ran home for a fast dinner, and over to the ranch to gather, sort, load, and head to the sale.

As we pulled around toward the cattle pens, I caught sight of one of the cows and wondered why her ears looked so shiny. Unusually shiny. Almost like they weren’t ears, but more like horns. Which would not make sense because our herd is all Angus and Ultrablack (Brangus x Angus), and nothing has horns. About the time I pointed out that we had a horned cow in our midst, Steven pointed out that we had two bulls- one more than we should have. And that’s when we realized that the neighbor’s cattle were now on our place. As Michael Scott would say, “How the turn tables!”

Steven called our neighbor and he said he would be over as soon as possible to help gather up and take them home. We stood around watching them, with Steven keeping an eye on this intruder bull like an overprotective dad with a gaggle of super pretty teenage daughters. That bull was mainly interested in the cow he came with, but he was also probably a third bigger than our bull, meaning we really didn’t want him near our heifers. At one point, the neighbor’s bull made a move toward one of our heifers, and Steven shouted “Oh, HELL no, you get away from her!!” I knew it was a serious situation, but that was the point I had to work my hardest not to die laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. We waited for a little longer, and then decided to at least go ahead and pen everyone up if we could.

After getting everyone corralled, Steven hooked up to our livestock trailer to be ready to load whoever we needed to, whether they needed help getting theirs home, or if we managed to get our calves ready to go. The neighbor and his brother-in-law arrived and confirmed those were his. He then said he needed to go get a trailer to transport them home/ back to the original owner because he had been leasing that bull for the summer. While they were gone, we got our four calves penned together, and then their bull and cow penned together, so everyone was ready to load once the neighbor returned. I breathed a small sigh of relief once the sorting was finished (nothing makes me quite as nervous as running a gate- I’m getting better at it, but I’m always worried I’m going to let the wrong one out or something on accident), but just as we started to relax, we noticed the bull wrap his lips around the rod that keeps the gate closed and attempt to open the gate to let himself out!

Steven stood by the gate and kept him away until they arrived back with a trailer and convinced the bull and cow to head home with them. After all the hullabaloo, we got our four calves loaded and dropped at the sale just in time for the kids to roll in bed at 10 with school the next day. Luckily we are a pretty farming/ ranching heavy community, and I think working cattle would have been an acceptable excuse for her fatigue the next day 😉 Luckily we haven’t had any more shenanigans the rest of the week, although I’m hesitant to jinx it now!

One lesson we’ve learned quickly in the ranching community is that grace is always extended because grace is always needed. The fastest way for your cows to be out is for you to think/say, mine would never do that. I was floored by the amount of passersby that stopped to lend a hand, offered to mend a fence, call for help, etc, and I’ve learned that it’s because all of those people do it for nothing other than true kindness, and know that if/when it’s their turn, people will be there for them, too. And amazingly, there isn’t judgement. There is no “you don’t know how to manage your cows”, so on and so forth, because again, as soon as you say yours would never, that’s the time they will. But what a picture of Jesus, and being His hands and feet to jump in and help others no questions asked when they are vulnerable. I like to think that we would have been grace filled toward our neighbors visiting regardless, but being the ones out just the day before definitely put things in a much more grace centered space for us (but we would still prefer that enormous bull not have relations with our heifers 😉 ). What a different place the world would be if we all had this attitude always with everyone. I’m the first to admit that I don’t, but it’s been a humbling reminder this week to remember the 11th commandment- treat your neighbor’s cattle as you’d want them to treat yours. 😉

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14

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