Monday, May 26, 2008

An Open and Shut Case

Yesterday morning started with an early call about cattle loose on the road. In keeping with the record so far, it was another wild goose chase--if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor. We have to jump and go running just in case.

The just in case includes many possible scenarios-- a calf nudging open a gate, an animal leaping or charging through something, the herd spooked by a dog or a fox and running pell mell through or over things. Any gap in the fences or dykes can also be an invitation to a misadventure. It is even possible that the gates themselves disappear. It happened down south. With the price of scrap metal going up, it is another possibility to be included in the list of just in case scenarios.

Also possible is a gate left open.

I have not thought so much about gates since I tried to learn about computer logic, which meant looking at logical gates. And or Or. On or Off. Open or Shut. I could not generate enough interest in the flow of electrons to study those gates. I think my mind must be a rather coarse grained sieve--things as small as electrons slip through too easily.

Cattle, however, get my attention. This morning a quick look out the bedroom window has revealed the cattle are in the barley field. How they got there--a question of gates and fences--needs to be sorted, but for now they need to be out of there.

So instead of a cuppa coffee or checking emails I find myself standing in a barley field wondering how best to persuade a knot of edgy youngish cattle that they don't want to be there.

Fortunately it is dry, so cattle's hooves do not punch great holes in the fields, and the barley is young, so any plants trampled can recover themselves.

In between watching the cattle running almost to the gate and out and then getting spooked at the last minute and kicking up dust in the wrong direction, I look at the barley. It looks like dark green, longish blades of grass. Unassuming really, as plants go, but the finished product--the little golden kernels are probably more valuable now than their weight in gold. I step even more gingerly over them as I reflect on that.

As always in these cattel wrangling scenarios, I am the doer rather than the thinker, but I have spent enough time now watching cattle that I sometimes have ideas of my own. So I offer some suggestions about which gates to open and shut to lead cattle in or to keep them out. In this way, we manage to get some cattle corralled in what we call the boxing ring--an area we use for handling them in and out of the barn area. A few others make their way into a path between the barley field and paddocks near the house, usually reserved for cattle that need special attention. The grass there looks lush and green, so we open the gate. A few of the cattle--about half-- make their way from the road into the paddock. The other half bunch up and make their way back into the barley field.

With some discussion, we decide to move the bunch in the paddock next door--even though the dykes are not perfectly secure, so we can re open the gate to the paddock of green grass and then just leave it open in the hopes that the cattle will seize the opportunity of lush green grass and the company of their companions.

Having decided this, however, one last look over our shoulder suggests that maybe a little push would get them over this time. We give it one or two more rumbles up and down the field and then, as if they had it in mind all along anyway, they file through the gate and into the paddock. I close the gate behind them and then close the gates to the barley field and head in for coffee. Later we'll have to move them back where they belong, but for now the gates are open and shut in the right order.

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At 5:44 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Herding these cattle sounds like herding cats. Cats might be harder to get going in a diretion you want them to, but on the other hand, they can't destroy big objects like gates or fences, or hurt people.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger TerriRainer said...

I would much rather herd cattle than cats...although for some reason, I could picture myself out there with a fly swatter, which I believe may work with either stubborn creature!

:) Terri

At 7:36 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Actually cattle and cats do have severla things in common. Most important is that it is easiest to persuade them to move rather than to try to order them anywhere.

At 7:36 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

I loved the image of you with a fly swatter. Somehow I saw you holding it kind of like those Ashanti chiefs with their regal lion tail scepter-flyswatters.


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