Farmer finds many ways to skin cat

Baxter Black

You’ve heard the old adage, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

In northern Indiana there’s more than one way to skin a renegade cow.

Farmer Dave had rented pasture from a neighbor. It had a big old deserted barn, complete with hay loft, sliding doors and draft horse stalls. Dave hauled 25 beef cow pairs and six dry milk cows up the road to the pasture.

Mid-summer the neighbor called with the news that she was getting divorced, had put the house up for sale and no longer wanted cows running around loose in the pasture. She wanted it “pristine” she said.

After a family consultation Dave came up with PLAN A to gather the cows.

Simple, really, on foot and using the 4-wheeler to push them to the barn where the loading chute was. During the first attempt, Hoodoo, a lanky snorting Angus cow, refused to be gathered with the herd. When pressured, she turned back, crashed through two fences, and landed in the neighbor’s cornfield where she and her calf disappeared!

Next morning Dave went better prepared. PLAN B included reinforcements.

He brought the army, aka his wife, daughter and five Amish neighbors. They surrounded the rejoined herd and using farm implements, a broken plastic whip and an empty dog food bag, they managed to get all but the Hoodoo cow into the barn. She jumped a 5-foot board corral fence (built in 1958) and scattered rotten wood for an acre and a half before returning to the neighbor’s cornfield!

PLAN C: the next day, after fixing the two fences and corral, involved penning the bull and her bawling calf in the stalls and baiting the alleyway with hay and grain. Hoodoo never showed but the bull escaped onto the highway.

PLAN D: Loaded rest of entire herd, put calf in the barn, set our fresh hay as lure and left the light on for her, just like Tom Bodett.

PLAN E: Brought back four tame dairy cows, left food in the barn. For three days cows came into the barn every time Dave came to feed. Hoodoo slipped in at night for water and returned to the cornfield, which was now 6 feet tall and impenetrable.

The divorced renter lady was losing patience … two weeks had gone by. Dave considered tranquilizer darts from his veterinarian. He talked to the Amish about a flintlock and black powder field dressing, but in the end it was modern farming practices that saved the day.

Oblivious and frustrated, Dave decided to mow the pasture. He figgered it would just spook the cow back to the corn but … as he swept the field back and forth, the cow became confused. She finally ran in the direction of the swaths right into the barn with her calf and Dave bolted up behind her and slammed the door.

Dave was a thinker and postulated afterwards that cows must have a biological direction-finder like migrating geese and that his tractor had altered the earth’s magnetic field, confusing the cow’s compass and she got lost.

Interesting idea, I thought, but finally just concluded Dave’s got too much time on his hands.