Those four dreaded words


Kay Reminger

Shaking me awake, my husband’s words jolted me out of a deep sleep: “The Angus got out!”

Immediately, my eyes flew open and in the muddiness, I tried to comprehend what he saying. I sensed it was urgent.

“I got them back in! You’ll have to go out there when it gets light out and tie the gate up better until I get back home to fix it tonight! Listen, listen, you awake? Go in the milk house, there’s a thick yellow rope hanging in there. Cut it into three pieces and tie the gate up to the feed wagon on the cow yard. I gotta go!”

I could hardly comprehend “the Angus got out” without letting it soak in about what I’m supposed to do. In a matter of seconds, I went from shock to relief to anxiety.

All during years of working with animals, those dreaded words: “The cows are out!” would be the phrase that would throw us into a panic. Grabbing a broomstick or whatever else we could find, every able-bodied person in the house would run outside to round up the delinquent animals, all the while hoping they’d stay off the road — and the lawn!

As we were considering raising Black Angus, the thing we were told over and over was to be sure we had proper fencing, for those animals are nosy, strong and determined. Taking that into account, my husband and a couple of helpers made extra sure the fencing was secure.

Digging more fencepost holes than they cared to remember, they stabilized the grassland with three strings of wire, including an electric wire at the top and bottom of the fencing surrounding the pasture. For good measure, they added an extra string on one side near the waterer in the cow yard. The six-by-six treated post (there for 20 years) on the opposite side of the cow yard seemed sturdy enough, but little did we know how strong and inquisitive these animals could be.

This particular day, my husband had gone outside at 5 a.m. to fire up the wood stove, then he was going to come inside to have a quick breakfast before heading out for his part-time job. That was the plan. That morning as he was throwing wood in the stove, he noticed large hoofprints in the snow. Oh, oh. Those weren’t deer. His heart sunk. Peering into the shed, he thought he could see something moving around in there but wasn’t sure.

Thinking he could use the skidsteer at least for the lights alone, he hopped in and sure enough, as the lights flooded the shed, there they were; big black bodies of varying sizes staring at him, some simply lounging on the dirt floor of the shed, relaxing after passing the night away, stomping through much of the shed’s stuff. They are neither little nor particularly graceful.

Much to my husband’s relief, after getting roused by the skidsteer, they followed their own trail of escape back inside their pasture. He had found out they pushed over that six-by-six on the cow yard. There was a hinged gate attached and my husband discovered that lying flat, hinges intact. Big and persistent, they must have been bored and figured they’d found a delightful new scratching post.

This opening to the cow yard had been previously used for years during silo filling. Husband would drive around the barn, unload, and drive through the cow yard past this hinged gate that freely swung wide to let him go in and out. During harvest the cows would be in the pasture and the yard was partitioned off so he could go in and out without having to get on and off to shut the gate. It was handy.

As soon as it was light enough, I got out there and following his instructions, found the rope. Heading behind the barn I realized the escapees had leveled the gate in their grand adventure out. Husband had righted it and secured it on one end with a chain to the cow wagon on the yard. Because he had to leave for work, he only had time to quickly grab light rope to tie up the other side, which they could easily nibble off or push through if the thought crossed their mind. (This explained my harsh awakening.)

Securing it in three places with hefty rope, I also brought the skidder down and parked it flush with the gate. They wouldn’t get out this day. While I was working down there, the Angus had formed a line, watching me. There they all were; small, medium and really big Black Angus, coming to check me out. To calm my nerves, I started talking to them.

“You guys don’t scare me.” (I was scared.)

“I know what I’m doing.” (That was questionable.)

“Back off!” (I will scream bloody murder if you take one step closer.)

Safeguarding it as best I could, I left them and walked around checking out our yard. They had had a field day. Their telltale tracks were everywhere. They had even gone up to my car and licked the back windshield, their fat sandpaper tongues leaving behind wide swatches of dried saliva. A cow pie on the driveway was like a statement: “Ha! Ya. We were up here and dang proud of it.”

Getting home late afternoon, my husband secured the gate with chain onto the feed wagon on one side and to a tree on the other. When the ground thaws he will dig a hole and put up a new fencepost.

For now, it’s reliable, which reassures me he won’t be waking me up with those four dreaded words!

(“For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine.” Psalm 50:10-11)