Last Saturday I was sitting on the couch at my cabin up the West Chewuch Road when I heard the loud, unmistakable bawl of a baffled or belligerent cow. It came from about three feet away, just outside my window, close enough that I could get splattered with cow snot. I was startled not just by the noise but also by the concept that I might have cattle in my yard.
Sure enough, I did. It was a small herd, in fact – what appeared to be two mature cows and two calves, free from pasturage and out for a liberated stroll. They came right up to my porch and looked me over, either in expectation of something – did they want me to milk them, pet them, feed them? – or as a warning to keep my distance.
The lead cow, apparent by its size and demeanor, stared at me with some kind of inscrutable intent, then finally broke away and resumed grazing. But it’s hard to know if you have won a stare-down with a cow, or if they just gave up on getting any kind of useful human response.
Eventually they wandered out of my driveway and headed north on West Chewuch Road, presumably in the direction from which they originated (there is a cattle ranch on the other side of the Chewuch River valley). But the bovine renegade adventure wasn’t over. They came back a short time later and cut through my yard to the neighbor’s place.
By nightfall they were back up in the brush behind my cabin, hiding out for the evening. Next morning, they were again huddled in front of my porch, standing around as if they were talking about where to go for coffee. Of course, they had their own cream.
The little group ambled back across the road to another pasture, clearly in the thrall of the alpha cow. Less than an hour later, a cattle truck came by and loaded them up for the trip home and the end of their furlough. Someone had called the authorities – something I should have thought to do, if I knew what to say other than “there are cows outside.” It showed up on the police blotter.
I know this is open range country, so I was more amused than bothered by the visitation, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen hooves on the loose. Having spent time on various family members’ farms and in their dairy barns, I wasn’t particularly flustered about encountering them. The cows were more interesting than deer, and probably wouldn’t eat the plant hanging from the porch.
But I also worried about them. What if they got hit by a truck? And I was a bit concerned that someone might misunderstand what was going on. It’s a lot like the Old West out here, and maybe they still string up cattle rustlers.
Since you are wondering and I’ve already been asked, yes, they did leave mementos.