My neighborhood is a standard idyllic American neighborhood . . . houses side by side, back yards fenced, kids riding bikes next to dogs running on the streets. However, the majority of these kinds of neighborhoods back up onto other neighborhoods, or main roads or even shopping complexes. My neighborhood backs up onto cow farms.
Looked at from an aerial view, it’s hard to determine who thought to buy a neighborhood in this shape. Most subdivisions are rectangular, or even have rounded sides. The shape of mine is like a three fingered, lumpy cartoon style hand with lumps sticking out here and there. In fact, my property is one of those lumps. Not only does my yard abut a cow farm, it’s flush against three different cow farms!
I have learned a lot about cows living next to so many of them. One thing I have not learned is what the cows are for . . . I don’t think they are milk cows (no facilities on the neighboring farms) and I don’t think they are beef cows (the entire herd never disappears nor dwindles). I have to admit ignorance here, as – beyond milk and beef – I don’t know what else cows are for. *shrug*
But I have learned other useful things. 1 – Cows have a daycare system. One or two mothers will look after eight to ten calves at a time. They moo to corral them. 2 – Barbed wire does not stop a cow. It merely lowers a cow’s desire to be on the other side of that wire. 3 – Cows are more curious than people give them credit for. 4 – Cows are much larger up close than you would think. (I learned numbers 2, 3 and 4 on the same day.)
A cow that wants to get across his fence needs only to push at the fence until it gives way. In Cow v. Fence, Cow always wins. The best Fence can achieve is a draw.
I looked out my window one day and thought, “Wow, the cows look so close. It’s almost like they are in my yard!” Upon going to get into my car, I realized the cows didn’t just LOOK close, they WERE close. There were twelve cows grazing on my lawn.
As I watched, two of them headed across to my neighbor’s front yard and into his back yard. His eight-foot fence prevented me from seeing what the cows were up to and it also prevented me from wanting to see. After having gotten closer than I planned, the thought of being in an enclosed space with two cows had lost any appeal. So I picked up the phone and called; my neighbor can herd his own strays. Since no one was home, I warned him about the possible surprise in his back yard and that any destruction was neither a practical joke nor vandalism . . . nor was the cow pie on his front walkway.
I called the owners of the cow farm. . . no one home there either. (In later instances, I have learned to herd the herd back across the broken fence (or anywhere I can find) and simply call and report the incident. My phone messages tend to sound like this: “Hi, I found cows in my yard this morning. I sent them back across the fence to your farm. Um, I’m not sure if they are your cows or not. You should check them.”) This first time, though, I was at a loss. At least I had seen which farm they came from that day.
Eventually, Jacob called me back and thanked me for reporting it. I asked if I was responsible for half the fence repair (it’s my fence, too.) Jacob told me he’d fix it – the ‘free range livestock fine’ was far greater than the cost of fence repairs.
I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere before where there was a ‘free range livestock fine’. I knew we had leash laws . . . if the farmer puts the cow on a leash can he walk it down the street? I have no clue.
Later, I texted my sister the footage of the fourteen cows that had crossed onto my lawn. In the video they graze a little, but most of them literally kicked up their heels and went trotting down the street, clearly drunk on their own freedom.
Sis texted back “Wow, it looks like the grass is greener on your side of the fence now!”
Yes, Sis, I think it is.