Don’t Fence Me In

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. – Unknown


As I sit down to write this column, the summer solstice is almost upon us. I love these long days of summer when it stays light outside well into the evening. These extended days provide an opportunity to enjoy a full round of golf after work, to get more yard work done or to just sit on the deck and enjoy nature.

As much as I appreciate being able to do all these things, this time of year always brings back one specific memory of a lovely evening in June many years ago. I had just finished watering my flowers and was preparing to mark some English papers (another less enjoyable aspect of June for many teachers) when a passerby stopped to inform me that our cattle were out of the pasture and wandering down the road.

But let me back up for a minute to explain a few things. We have a few acres of pasture surrounding our farm yard and so for many years we would purchase yearlings in the spring, pasture them through the summer and sell them in the fall. This was done mainly to keep down the grass and prevent a fire hazard from developing. My husband had grown up on a mixed farm and had plenty of dealings with cattle but I was a town gal with no such experience.

Now I know that the image of cattle grazing peacefully nearby fits the quintessential Norman Rockwell painting, but I felt differently. I was certain that those placid bovines contently chewing their cuds were really scheming about how they could escape given the next opportunity. And that opportunity always seemed to present itself once Ken had driven out of the yard headed to some distant destination.

On this particular evening, it wasn’t just one animal that had decided to go awol, but the entire herd. I jumped into my vehicle to check if indeed these were our cattle and, of course, they were. So I headed back home to get proper footwear, mosquito spray and to call Ken.  Although he was two and a half hours away and could offer no assistance I didn’t think it was fair that I should suffer all the stress, so I let him in on the good news (insert sarcasm here). And until you have had the joy (more sarcasm) of chasing unco-operative cattle, don’t judge me and my behavior.

So off I went, unsure of how I was going to get these critters back home or to a safe spot. Since we live near a railway track and highway, I knew this had to be done or there would be fresh hamburger strewn about come the next morning. Those steers nearly drove me crazy that night! My husband had taught me that you had to go slowly and keep them moving along. Well, I would get them walking back in the direction of our yard (a mere 1 km away) and then one would stop, stare at me, then suddenly turn tail and kick up his heels as he headed in the opposite direction, only to be followed by the rest of the herd. I was beginning to understand why cattlemen like to swear so much!


Thank goodness two young fellows from our neighbourhood came to my rescue with their ATV’s. It was dark when I finally got back to the house. I was exhausted, not in good humour and I could hear the phone insistently ringing. It was Ken wondering how things were going.

I responded, “Did you know that at 9:45 on a June evening you can still see where you are running as you chase dumb steers across a field?” (Oh yes, plenty of sarcasm!)

There was no response at the other end. I’m sure Ken must have been thinking what would be the best way to proceed with the situation. But then I relented and informed him that our 15 steers were securely penned for the night. Across the 250 kms that separated us, I could feel the tension leave his body. After all, this hadn’t been his fault. It seems that someone who was working in our yard left one of the gates open.

These days we rent out our pasture. That way if the animals get out, I know who to call, and it isn’t Ken.


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