Cows on the Lam
During the past year, new legends have been added to the Book of Bovine Folklore. Last week, it was Mike the Steer from New Jersey. His tale includes escaping from a slaughterhouse, fording a river, and negotiating the streets of New York. He was granted clemency, and we assume he is peacefully chewing his cud at an upstate farm.
|Yvonne (left) gets a nose bump from her son|
The legend of Yvonne the Gutsy German Guernsey has a bit more “Mad Cow” quality to it. After she jumped an electric fence, Yvonne survived in the woods for three months: In that time, she had a near collision with a police car, evaded a helicopter search, survived a brief shoot-to-kill order, and inspired a hit song in Germany titled “Don’t Let Them Take Your Freedom.”
Capture hasn’t diminished her fame. Yvonne’s story will get the Hollywood treatment from a German production crew, and the animated film Cow on the Run is scheduled for a 2014 release.
But let’s face it. Most feeder cattle aren’t going to attain superstar status. They’re going to end up on the grill. That’s where a different type of legendary character comes in. Chet the Cow Catcher is an Illinois cowboy skilled at rounding ‘em up, and for many farmers, he has been a hero riding in on his not-so-white horse.
Chet came to Iowa a few months ago in an effort to help a local farmer gather a herd of widely dispersed cattle. A thunderstorm had damaged pens and spooked the 120 cattle, and locals were only able to corral 90 of them. With his horse and six tracking dogs, Chet took over.
Since my dad lives in that area, he joined the locals and observed Chet working close up, so he wrote this description of the event:
The strays were spread over a 25-mile area, and people from near and far had been sighting them one or two at a time. Chet explained, “I was constantly getting calls about steer sightings. Communication is important in this business. I’d rather be without my spurs than my cell phone.” The dogs would pick up the steer scent and follow two or three critters down corn rows and across creeks. When the dogs tracked one down, they held it at bay while Chet roped and hobbled it. He says it takes brute strength mixed with care and common sense to load a 750-pound steer into a trailer.The first day on the trail, Chet brought twelve steers back to the feedlot. During the next three days, he hauled in all but two, although they think that pair joined in with a neighbor’s herd.
Chet looks like a cowboy straight out of central casting, and he takes pride in his dogs, his horses, and his work. He knows cattle on the loose cause monetary losses for farmers and possible tragedy on the roads for unsuspecting drivers. Chet answers more than 100 emergency calls a year, and he has worked across more than half the states in the country.
Even a cowboy hero like Chet doesn’t always bring ‘em back. As he says, “Once in awhile a steer will get away and become a ‘free runner.’ He keeps running and jumping fences and either dies of old age or winds up in somebody’s freezer.”
In pastures and barns around the world, a few “free runners” live on in tales whispered by cows late at night to their young. “Once upon a time there was a brave and noble Guernsey named Yvonne, and she leaped like a deer over the electric fence and ...”
by dan gogerty (photo from news.sky.com)