In all things God’s Grace abounds.
In my previous post I relate how our two new heifers escaped. Let’s continue the story with how they get found.
It is 1pm, Friday. The cows that arrived earlier in the week have disappeared into the dense woods of our property line. I need to leave to go pick up our oldest son and his new bride from the airport. That leaves Mr. J and 2 boys to handle the cow search. They form a search line and spend the next two hours looking for cows until eventually Mr. J and the boys lose each other. Still no cows.
Time for a new approach.
The sun will be setting soon. We decide the best plan is to reach out to our neighbors. We have been so busy working the farm that we have been unable to introduce ourselves to the farms around us. Now is the perfect time. Mr. J. drives the truck to nearby properties handing out cards with our number and asking for a phone call if someone sees our heifers. He gets much sympathy and understanding nods as he describes our plight. Evidently, we are not the first people to have cows break loose.
The sun sets. The cows are still out there on their own. We are worried. Our only consolation is that the weather is mild and there has been plenty of rain so there will be water out there for our girls.
After dark Mr. J walks out to our woods with a flashlight to have a final look. Shining the light into the trees he sees two sets of beady eyes peering back. Then the eyes close, the heads turn, and the two cows all but disappear into the night. Stinkers! But at least we know they are close.
With the arrival of our oldest son and his new wife for a holiday visit we now have more hands to add to the task.
The next morning is Saturday, and as the guys head out again to search the woods, Mr. J gets a call on his cell phone. It is a 911 dispatcher asking if we had lost two cows.
(Can I just say, I love the fact that 911 is instrumental in connecting the threads of our little drama and that the deputies are looking out for all the creatures in their county not just the people. I’m sure we also gave them a good chuckle.)
A sheriff’s deputy had seen the two cows and reached out to a nearby farmer to try to track down the owners. Fortunately, it was one of the neighbors we had given our number to the night before. The deputy worked through 911 to track us down. We identified the girls by their tag numbers and the dispatcher gave us their latest location.
The guys leap into action. As they throw on their boots, I gather water and protein bars to keep them going. We learned from yesterday that this cattle wrangling is neither quick nor easy.
Mr. J and the three boys meet the deputy and two concerned neighbors on a country road about 2 miles away from or homestead and get an update on the girls. Helen Reddy and Panda have moved off the road up the hillside into trees and brambles. Not optimal, but it could be worse.
At the top of the hill another neighbor on his ATV is keeping an eye on the cows and waiting for my guys to arrive so he can help. Dylan and his ATV prove to be lifesavers in this story.
But we have a problem. A big problem. Suppose we can get the girls; we have no way to contain them. It’s not like they will allow themselves to be herded. We don’t have a cattle trailer and our property is over two miles away by country road. We can’t think about that now. First, get the girls.
So, it’s all hands on deck with Dylan on the ATV and my four guys spread out at strategic points in the trees and brambles. Eventually, they get Helen down the hill to the country road. This is ideal. The road, fenced on both sides, creates a chute. And off that road is a gate to a well-fenced pasture holding a small herd of Angus cattle. The perfect place is placed right before us. Using our truck, the ATV, and three boys they are able to get Helen herded close to the gate. Mr. J and the boys keep Helen in place while Dylan calls the pasture’s owner, Travis, asking if we could get his gate unlocked and herd our cow in with his. He sends someone over to unlock the gate. Before long, Helen is contained.
But Panda is out of sight, she zigged when Helen zagged. We got one girl secure, but the other is still out there, and we don’t know where. We think Helen will call out to her from the paddock and Panda will wander back to be close to her friend, but that will take time. Not much else can be done at the moment, so my guys head home and wait.
Back at the house, us girls are regaled with their adventure. The chasing through brambles. The running to prevent Helen’s escape. The helplessness as Panda heads off in the opposite direction. The helpfulness of Dylan and his ATV. The boys are animated in their storytelling and united in the experience.
Listening to them, I recall all the times as my boys were growing up, I planned vacations and activities with the goal of creating family memories and shared experiences. I felt I had to orchestrate moments like this for them to treasure. On this day, through no efforts of mine, a significant memory was created; an exciting day was lived. This homestead life we chose certainly makes life interesting and I am thankful that, at this moment, all my boys are along for the ride.
Around 4:30 that afternoon, I suggest to Mr. J that they hop in the truck and search for Panda one more time before it gets dark. Hopefully, she will have wandered back to Helen who is secure in the paddock. Mr. J, youngest son, and our new daughter-in-law, head out to have a final look for the day.
My three searchers wander about looking all the places Panda is not, while at the same time Dylan and his wife spy her from their farm and get her going toward the paddock with Helen. My crew falls in on the efforts. Panda heads to the gate, daughter-in-law opens it up, and Panda walks right in.
With the help of our neighbors, both cows have been found, corralled, and secured. We can breathe easy tonight.
Dylan, and his ATV, spent several hours that Saturday afternoon helping us. Time sacrificed for strangers who had lost their cows. We are humbly grateful.
The girls are tucked safely into Travis’ pasture with his cattle. When Mr. J offers to pay for their feed, Travis replies, “They don’t each much. You don’t owe me nuthin’.” When we worry that weather is preventing us from getting them in a timely manner, he replies, “They ain’t causin’ no trouble.” His hospitality is more than we could ask.
Our struggle with these two cows has brought to life in a tangible way the second of the two great commandments:
At the end of this Gospel passage Jesus says that if you love God with all you heart and love your neighbor as yourself “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34) I certainly feel as though I have experienced a little bit of heaven here on earth.
In small town Tennessee, 911 calls you about your lost cows and your neighbors go out of their way to help you find them.
And amid all the struggle God’s Grace abounds.