Trailin’ Cows

This weekend we trailed the cows to their spring pasture.  Because of the climate and the landscape, cows are moved several times a year so they can eat as much fresh, luscious grass as possible.  They have serene spring and fall pastures down in the valley, gorgeous summer pasture on top of the mountain, and they spend the winter at Mike’s house where they are fed hay (sun-dried grass, stored for wintertime) until the green grass grows again.

Trailin’ cows is a long walk, slowly.  There’s no reason to rush the cows; slow and steady allows them to remain calm and mellow, nibble roadside grass along the way, and nurse their calves as needed.  We went about ten miles down the highway; it took about six hours.

Sarah got the very-important-yet-very-boring duty of being the flagger truck.  Her job was to stay about 1/4 mile ahead of the cows and at the head of any blind corners or hills to alert other drivers that the highway was filled with cows. Cows and 70mph vehicles don’t mix well.

You can always tell a tourist from a local because the tourists stop their cars right in front of the cows and wait for the cows to go around them.  Which doesn’t work.  It’s a big strange noisy thing just sitting there, and the cows get nervous and stop or turn around.  Those in the know will drive slowly through the cows, for a potentially threatening thing headed straight-on to a cow will cause the cow to go straight past it ~ and the cows keep moving forward.  There’s a little bovine physics for you.

Another ruralism: you can always tell someone’s trailin’ cows when you see poop splatter headin’ down the road.

I was a’horseback making sure the front of the group kept moving and in the right direction while Mike brought up the rear, on a fourwheeler when necessary but mostly at the very back in a truck and horsetrailer, flagging from the other end.

Cows are quite wonderful the way they string out and follow the leader.  They trust the group and funtion as a whole in so many ways.  The older cows have made this journey several times and know exactly where they are going ~ they act happy to embark on the trek, for they know rolling hills of fresh grass await.

Pro tip: Get that soft-focus, vintage look by leaving a nice big thumbprint on your lense.  (Or, you can achieve the same effect by stretching a layer of tulle across the lense!  Try it!)

Ranger is a fantastic horse but he detests trailing.  He gets very bored.  He’d rather be out breaking trail or racing across the BLM than stuck on a highway with cows for six hours.  And it’s true ~ trailing cows is one of those things (at least for me) that is far more romantic in concept than action.  I’d rather be out breaking trail or racing across the BLM, too!

All morning, Ranger kept turning around in an attempt to start back home ~ as if I wouldn’t notice.  And when I thwarted his attempt, he’d toss his head in irritation and I’d spin him in a circle back to the front and we’d walk for a while and then: another attempt to rebel, another showy head toss, another spin on his hind feet, another thousand yards.  I called it the Ballet of Belligerence.

ranger is waiting for his limo
When we were done, and Ranger heard the horse trailer approaching, he perked up.  I dare say he was delighted.  And the calves frolicked in the water like kids and the cows buried their noses in grass.

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