The dirt road shimmered under my feet in the dark as if walking on stars. Every so often Missy, the Scottish Highlander cow I was leading, swung her horns at one of the six Angus cows following us up the moonlit road. Just two hours earlier I had driven this very same road with those six Angus cows in the stock trailer. We had put them in the trailer but a few miles down the road they weren’t there anymore.
Earlier that evening Bruce, my husband, and I had loaded five calves and two cows in the front section and six black yearling cattle in the back section of our stock trailer. As it grew dark, I drove the rig back to our home farm with Bruce a few minutes behind me in another vehicle. We were bringing these cattle back to our farm, Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, before moving them to another remote pasture.
All seemed well until about halfway home when I got a call from Bruce wondering if, “those cattle on the corner of Rt 126 and Tasker Rd were ours?” A quick check of the empty trailer confirmed the worst. Apparently, in the dark, we had forgotten to latch the rear sliding door and the six cattle, in the far back of the trailer, had jumped of the moving vehicle out a few miles from the pasture.
I drove the rig back to where Bruce had last seen the cattle but I couldn’t find them. The Barnstead police showed up, lights flashing about the same time friends, Teresa and Tom, arrived to help Bruce and me. First, we had to locate and then round up the escapees.
So how do you catch six delinquent black cows in the dark on a public road? Easy, with another cow. I drove the trailer, still containing cattle who had not escaped and were watching these events unfold, to our remote pasture a few miles back up the road and put a halter on the first cow I found. My flashlight was dead, so in the dark it was hard to tell which cow I had but when I realized it was Missy, one of our riding Highlanders, I was ecstatic. Missy is easy to lead and trusting. I put a halter on her, put her in the back of the trailer and we drove to the scene of the big escape.
When I returned, the delinquent cattle were hanging out next to the police car, flashing lights off. I don’t know how he did it, but for fifteen minutes Officer Cremin, with just a flashlight and his voice, kept the delinquents calm and in a group near the road. They listened quietly as he told them more than once, “Behave, and stop pushing each other around.” When I arrived leading Missy, she gave a loud “Mooo,” as if to say, “What are you guys doing here, let’s go.”
The six delinquents, sometimes running ahead but mostly hanging out behind, followed Missy and me back down the road to the pasture they had driven away from just two hours earlier. Some detoured into fields or down side roads but they always came back, walking in the headlights of Tom and Teresa’s car bringing up the rear. Swinging her head every so often to keep them behind her, Missy, probably irritated that she had to make this midnight walk, led the escapees back to the pasture. Grateful, they all seemed unharmed by their jump from a moving vehicle, we got them back through the gate and into the field. It was midnight by the time I drove the other cattle, still safely in the trailer, back to the farm in Loudon.
How do you catch an escaped cow? The answer is simple, “Not with a horse and cowboy but with another cow.” Besides who needs a cowboy when the Barnstead police come to the rescue?