Monday, May 07, 2007

Parade with Pinwheels and Quadrupeds

You never know what experience in your life will come in handy later. I had a friend who got her first professional job with the Environmental Protection Agency because they wanted someone who could get along with truckers. Although she had a brand new degree and no professional experience, she had worked one summer as a waitress at a truck stop. That experience was enough to tip the scales in her favor and she got the job.

One of my stepchildren got a job because in addition to a college degree and experience in personnel, she had worked with a sheep shearing gang in New Zealand, which convinced her interviewer that she could manage not only secretarial candidates but also lorry drivers or other more earthy, outspoken souls.

Even unpleasant experiences can bear sweet fruit. My friend, J., walked through streets where she was called names and had rocks thrown at her to get to the library. The courage and the knowledge she earned have served her well. What doesn't kill us will make us stronger, and, hopefully, flexible enough to apply the experience when needed.

My original intention in becoming a majorette in junior high school, to the best of my recollection, was some vague adolescent notion of being cool and part of a group. That old peer pressure thing. Once out of junior high I have enjoyed the experience only as mild embarrassment or to have a good laugh from time to time with some new acquaintance. Until today that is.

Earlier today I was startled by a face peering in at me from outside the second floor landing. In the fullness of the day, the farm bustled with workers on the roof of the house; lorries and vans in the steading; farm vehicles and people coming and going. Now the workers have gone, the cattle are quiet in the fields or in the barns, and the sun is lowering itself slowly into sunset. Over dinner Morris announces that we are going to move the cattle from one field into another--or at least try, he says. This task has fallen into our lap because the quad bike is no longer working, David's dog can't work the cattle in from the field, and there is always too much to be done on the farm, so whenever I can help solve one of these pesky problems and play with the cattle, I am game for it.

The first part of the problem is thinking what will make cattle curious. Cattle, like cats, are more easily persuaded to do something with curiosity or food than any other form of persuasion. Morris and I play a variant of 21 questions as I look for things that might make cattle curious--curious enough to follow us. I settle on a white hat with a bobble on it, and, in a fit of truly inspired cattle-wrangling--pinwheels! I bought them originally as bird scarers for the barley fields or to put in my garden to keep pigeons away from my tender plants, but I am convinced this is just the thing to attract a cow. Morris chooses one of the classics--a white towel.

Thus equipped, we set off down the road, across the stackyard where the Dutch barn is being built, and into the field. After so many weeks of ilness and convalescence, it is a celebration just to walk out into the spring twilight with the smell of the long sweet grass and the light breeze off the ocean. My pinwheels fly with verve and multicolor plastic into the light breeze. The cattle watch us curiously as we cross the field. We get close enough that they stop eating and look intently at us but not close enough to cause them to run. This is a delicate maneuver. I take my cues from Morris and concentrate on my pinwheels. Sure enough they begin first running toward us and then stop. We slow until they catch up with us. They bunch together in better formation than my junior high majorettes and I ever managed. If only we had drums and trombones, it would have been a beautiful parade.

In time, the cattle tired of the parade and in a nice tight bunch went right through the gate that we had hoped to lead them through. They went through so quickly that I dropped my pinwheels and made a sprint to close the gate gehind them.

The next field full of cattle was more savvy or perhaps just not interested in pinwheels. Not everyone likes a parade. We set the gates to invite them into the next field (and hopefully to deter them from making their own parade grounds) and came back inside. Morris is confident that they will come into the field in their own time, just like cats.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger scorrie said...

this story is why I had to go to the good old USA to get a cowgirl with savvy enough to pull cattle !!! // nae bother, as we say in Scotland after doing the impossible // scorrie //

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

what a marvelous image! I can visualize it so clearly - a movie-quality image for sure! The pied piper strikes again....


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